“I jokingly said, ‘Oh, was (Kim) there today?’ He’s so quiet.”
Doosan Bears manager Lee Seung-yeop laughed while talking about rookie catcher Kim Ki-yeon, 27, because he’s so introverted you wonder if he was even on the field. While he doesn’t see it as a problem per se, catcher is a special position that requires communication with both pitchers and hitters. Lee can’t help but shake his head at the quietness of a player who is supposed to be the commander of the field.
Kim Ki-yeon was a catching prospect who joined the LG Twins in 2016 after graduating from Jinheung High School. He was selected by Doosan in the second round of the draft last November, so it’s been about three months since he changed uniforms. It’s been a little over 10 days since he officially joined the Doosan team at the spring training camp in Sydney, Australia.
It could be seen as an adjustment period, but Doosan officials shake their heads. Doosan officials have received information that Kim was a quiet player even in his LG days, so they want him to be a little more active and have been speaking to him once in a while. Among them, Doosan President Kim Tae-ryong was the most active. “We’ll keep an eye on him for a year,” Kim said, hoping that he would seize the opportunity with vigor in his new team.
Lee said, “Ki-yeon is very quiet. She’s so quiet that I was like, ‘Oh, were you there today? He’s so quiet, but he’s the youngest of the catchers, so he follows his older brothers around and does what he needs to do,” Lee said, laughing.
“I don’t think he’s 100% yet, but I can see he’s really pushing himself. He’s been training with Seriza and Yuji Battery, and if there’s anything that’s missing, he’s been working on it. I saw her in batting practice and she spins the bat well,” he added, encouraging the freshman.
The player Kim should emulate most was close at hand. Teammate Seung-han Ahn, a catcher. Ahn is known for being one of the fiercest players in the dugout. Ahn’s salary was increased from 45 million won last year to 55 million won this year, and a Doosan official said, “(Ahn’s) salary increase reflects his attitude of boosting team morale. As it is a team sport, teamwork is also an important evaluation factor,” said a Doosan official.
When Ahn Seung-han yelled out a cheer as he worked with pitchers in the bullpen early in camp, Lee said, “Save your neck, Seung-han. It’s too early,” and laughed out loud. Then, when Young-gun was pitching in the bullpen, he shouted, “Seung-han, come here and get the ball. I want you to pitch,” he would shout. It was a scene that clearly showed the character of Ahn Seung-han at Doosan.
Doosan hopes that Kim Ki-yeon will become a catcher who can lead young pitchers with the same brightness as Ahn Seung-han. The reason Doosan paid LG 400 million won ($400 million) in the first round to acquire Kim was to spark the competition for the next starting catcher. The ability to communicate well is something that not only Ahn, but also Yang Ji and Jang Seung-hyun, the other senior catchers in the organization, possess. Doosan believes that if Kim Ki-yeon can emulate their strengths, it will translate into a confident demeanor on the field.
Serizawa believes that Kim has all the qualities to be a good catcher. His quiet nature can sometimes be an advantage.
“From the short time I’ve watched her, she has the personality of a catcher. She puts the pitcher first and doesn’t say much when she doesn’t need to. Along with this personality, her framing ability is a strong point. He has reached a certain level in terms of pitching power and accuracy, but he believes that he can become a better catcher if he develops a little more.”
Doosan’s call for Kim to be brighter could be interpreted as a request for him to be more present in the team. Kim will have to compete with Jang Seung-hyun and Ahn Seung-han for the backup job until the exhibition games, and only if he survives can we discuss the meaning of the second round. Kim will have to slowly make his presence felt during camp and survive until the opening roster.