The coaches told me not to even play catch. Batting practice was out of the question. It was frustrating, but she understood the coaching staff’s concerns. Other rehabilitation teammates and rookies were throwing and hitting balls, so there was nothing Kim Do-young (21, KIA) could do. It was like that for more than two months. The league-sanctioned bronco was stuck in a cage.
On Nov. 11 at Hampyeong Kia Challengers Field, the home of KIA’s secondary facility, Do-young Kim watched his teammates practice with a slightly sullen expression. The other players were in the midst of batting practice, which was strictly forbidden for Kim. There was nothing he could do but sit around and watch. It means that his rehabilitation is not yet complete and he has to be patient. An untimely injury at the Asian Professional Baseball Championship (APBC) last November made Kim’s winter even colder.
It was the final against Japan, and the game was so close that it went into extra innings. Kim’s injury came in the very last inning of the tournament. In the 10th inning of extra innings, after signing for a sacrifice bunt, Kim watched the ball well, but lost count when the umpire called a strike on a ridiculous pitch. She went for a hard hit, but hit a grounder. Not wanting to get killed, he lunged for first base and paid the price. The collateral ligament in his left thumb was ruptured and the tendon was diagnosed as fractured. He was told it would take four months to rehabilitate.
This is the same Kim who suffered a foot injury while running to third base in the opening series last year and had to rehabilitate for a long time. The start and end of the season were marred by injuries. He admits that it took him longer than expected to shake off the mental stress. “At the time, I thought, ‘What is wrong with me?’ “Sometimes I’d look at Instagram and see APBC matches, and I’d feel so bad for a few days, and I’d even turn off all the settings so that APBC videos wouldn’t show up,” Kim recalls.
“I had so much to do, so many things I wanted to do, and I was about to lose another four months of golden time. It wasn’t easy to deal with the stress. The coaching staff was aware of her frustration, but decided it was better to limit her training in order to speed up her recovery. Even though her right hand was fine, she was told not to play catch. He didn’t want her left thumb to have any impact when receiving the ball. Everyone was patient for so long.
But now I’m crawling out of that tunnel. He’s still not at 100 percent, but he sees a light at the end of the tunnel. “I don’t know if I’m fully recovered yet. I can’t say it’s completely normal. I think the results will come out when I have my final checkup on the 26th,” she says, extending her thumb and smiling honestly as she says, “I try to catch a ball with a glove once in a while, and it seems to be fine.”
Instead, he commuted to Hampyeong every day and trained as much as he could. “I focused on running and physical fitness,” Kim said of his training last winter. “Towards the end of the season last year, I realized the importance of physical fitness in maintaining my batting form. I realized that I needed to build a strong body to overcome this year. As soon as I had the diagnosis that my finger was fully recovered, I was ready to do all the training. I have a lot of energy. At the start line, ready for the signal.
Kim now fully understands how severe an injury can be on an athlete’s career. “I didn’t have any major injuries in high school. I think I’m injured now because I was injured then,” she says, adding, “I don’t play baseball with a conscious mindset of not getting hurt. I think injuries are inevitable, and I’m not going to be paralyzed by them. But now I’m trying to make sure that I don’t do anything that might put me at risk of injury.” It was a painful experience, but fortunately, Kim is becoming more mature with each passing day.
Kim will join the team’s Canberra spring training camp on February 1. “I’m going to do some rehab and then when I’m ready, I’m going to do some technical training. I have less time to prepare than everyone else, and I have to compress everything. It’s not easy to prepare for the season. But Kim persevered and revised her timetable again and again. She actually enjoys the process. “I may not be able to enter the competition in perfect condition. But I have my own plan,” she said, “I have to make this year better than last year. Every year, I always start with my mind firmly set on it,” he said. It will be interesting to see if the team will be able to match the explosive power they show on the field.