“I told the younger players, ‘Don’t be shy, get up to bat and be the hero. ‘ Obviously, the opportunity will come in the rest of the innings, just wait for it and make it yours.”
Is this an intangible value that doesn’t manifest itself sexually? Lotte Giants’ free-agent pitcher Yoo Kang-nam, 31, calmed down a chaotic game and contributed to the victory. Of course, it was a bonus that he also played in the game.
Lotte won its 2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO League home game against the LG Twins 7-4 on 9 September at Sajik Baseball Stadium in Busan. With a five-game winning streak in jeopardy, Lotte has come back from the brink three times in the last two weeks, and also took down the NC Dinos, who lost on the same day, to move into sole possession of fourth place.
Lotte started the game with a lineup of Kim Min-seok (centre fielder), Yoon Dong-hee (right fielder), Jeon Jun-woo (first baseman), Ahn Chi-hong (second baseman), Yoo Kang-nam (designated hitter), Noh Jin-hyuk (shortstop), Han Dong-hee (third baseman), Son Sung-bin (catcher), and Hwang Sung-bin (left fielder). Yoo Kang-nam, a regular in the outfield, was the designated hitter, while Son Seong-bin, who retired from the Commercial Baseball Team, wore the mask.
It is noteworthy that Yoo Kang-nam started at designated hitter instead of on the bench on a catcher’s rest day. Prior to this game, Yoo was batting .237 with four home runs, 26 RBIs, and an OPS of .649 this season. That’s not much better than his career numbers (0.265 batting average and 0.741 OPS). It was only the second time this year that Yoo Kang-nam started as a designated hitter, the first being on 16 June against the Literary SSG.
However, his recent batting performance makes sense. As of the 8th, Yoo had a stellar batting average of .300 with two home runs and an OPS of .856 in his last 10 games. He’s been hitting well enough to stand out in a Lotte batting line-up that has been generally flat lately. Lotte manager Larry Sutton, 53, explained, “We batted him at the top of the lineup because he needed a break and he was hitting well.”
The strategy worked. Instead, while Son Sung-bin, wearing a catcher’s mask, tied up LG’s ‘batting order’ with two crucial singles, Yoo Kang-nam came through at the plate. In the bottom of the third inning, Yoo hit his fifth solo home run of the season over the left field fence off LG starter Lee Jung-yong. It was his second straight home run after hitting one in the previous game. Yoo finished the day with four hits, one run, one RBI and one run scored.
But that wasn’t his best moment. Lotte started to let the game slip away in the middle innings. Leading 6-1 in the top of the fourth, LOTTE gave up a run in the bottom of the fifth after a single by Kim Hyun-soo and a walk by Austin Dean sent starter Dan Streeley down the mound. Lotte replaced him with Lee In-bok, but gave up two runs on a single by Oh Ji-hwan and an error by the shortstop. Son Sung-bin stemmed the tide when he threw out Oh Ji-hwan at second base, but the deficit was already two runs.
The offence followed with a series of clumsy baserunning plays. Lotte came alive in the bottom of the fourth inning when Kim Min-seok led off with a double over the left field fence against reliever Lee Woo-chan. Two batters later, Yoon Dong-hee was hit by a pitch and Kim Min-seok advanced to third base, but was thrown out at the plate by catcher Park Dong-won after taking a few extra bases. Yoon Dong-hee immediately followed with a single to right. Yoon was then tagged out by Lee Woo-chan’s throw to the plate. The bases were loaded.
That’s when Yoo Kang-nam stepped in, calling a meeting with his defence in the top of the fifth. “We had (Kim) Min-seok and (Yoon) Dong-hee on base, and we gave up a run in the next inning,” he explained after the game. “I told the younger players, ‘Don’t be afraid to get up to bat and be the hero, and you’ll definitely get a chance in the rest of the inning, so wait for that chance and make it yours. It wasn’t a reprimand, but rather a call to arms to keep their spirits up.안전놀이터
The youngsters made up for their mistakes later in the game. Yoon Dong-hee drew a walk with runners on second and third in the bottom of the sixth, setting the stage for the next batter, Jeon Jun-woo’s pushing single. Kim Min-seok added an RBI single in the eighth to complete the three-hit performance. Yoo Kang-nam also praised the performance of the young players, saying, “It was a game that allowed them to grow.”
Yoo, who signed a four-year, 8 billion won free agent contract with Lotte before the season, was expected to solve the team’s catcher shortage. While his batting hasn’t quite lived up to expectations yet, he’s shown promise in his long-term framing and communication. “He’s a great leader behind home plate,” Sutton said. He’s a great leader behind the plate, and that’s why we signed him from Lotte.”
Sometimes he also plays the role of coach. He often grabs pitchers and gives them hands-on demonstrations and advice. Pitchers have credited Yoo’s “big reaction” with helping them after a good pitch.
More recently, he has also been hitting well, giving him the look of a veteran catcher that Lotte was hoping for. Lotte has acquired an “intangible value” with the free agent.