“I never thought about giving up,” said Kiwoom Heroes coach Hong Won-ki, who has led the team to back-to-back wins and a comeback, even when the girders were collapsing one after another.
“Our players will fight to the end for our fans,” he said ahead of the team’s home game against the KT Wiz of the 2023 KBO at the Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul on March 3, “and we will continue the momentum until we play our 144th and final game.”
Kiwoom has been losing its core since July.
The backbone of the batting order, Lee Jung-hoo, underwent surgery to repair tendons in his left ankle on July 27, and two days later, starter Choi Won-tae was traded to the LG Twins.
Last month, starting pitcher Jung Chan-heon was diagnosed as needing back surgery, and irreplaceable ace Ahn Woo-jin tore his elbow ligaments and will soon be on the operating table.
At its worst, Kiwoom has been on a downward spiral since August, falling to the bottom of the table.
However, Kiwoom has bounced back with three straight wins in their last three games.
The streak is significant because it came under tough circumstances.
“No one can guarantee the outcome of the season,” said coach Hong Won-ki, emphasizing that “the atmosphere of focusing on what we can do and doing our best is well spread throughout the squad.”
Kiwoom has been calmly stabilizing the team while filling the void left by the main players.
On this day, Kiwoom included Kim Dong-kyu, who started against LG on March 13, in the first team roster.
When asked about the decision, head coach Hong Won-ki said, “We will consider all possibilities for next week’s schedule,” adding that there are several candidates.
Regarding Kim Sun-ki, who pitched six scoreless innings against KT the day before, he said, “If he continues to prepare for the start and maintain his current form, we plan to prioritize him as a starting pitcher for next season.”
There is no timetable for Ahn’s surgery and future plans.
Some have asked if it would be beneficial for Ahn to enlist in the military and serve in the army after his surgery.
“We haven’t thought about that yet,” said coach Hong Won-ki, “but the first thing is to schedule the surgery.”
He also reflected, “I thought Ahn Woo-jin did a good job of systematic management, but I think it was a bit too much.”
“There is a regret that if our team (which uses the dome as its home stadium) had a sufficiently restful environment due to many rain cancellations like other clubs, the probability of Ahn Woo-jin’s injury would have been lower,” he added. 파워볼