Kim Kang-min (41), the “symbol of Incheon baseball in the 2000s,” who played for the former SK Wyverns and SSG Landers for 23 years, is in a quandary.
After receiving a coaching job offer from SSG, an affiliate of the Korean Baseball Organization, and considering extending his playing career, he now has more important discussions with the Hanwha Eagles.
Hanwha selected Kim with the 22nd overall pick in the fourth round of the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) Secondary Draft on Feb. 22.
SSG, which had removed Kim from its 35-man protected list, was baffled, and fans soon criticized the club’s decision.
“We had been discussing retirement, extension of active service, and even the timing of the retirement ceremony with Kim Kang-min, so I didn’t expect another club to nominate him. Since we are actively promoting generational change, it was difficult to put him on the 35-player protected list,” SSG said.
However, fans say it’s even more incomprehensible that SSG didn’t place Kim on the protected list, given that they can actually protect more than 40 players in their first to third year of pro ball, free agents (FAs) in that year, and foreign players in the second round of the draft.
Quite a few teams have marked players who are not on the disabled list but are retiring as “recognizable” and passed them on to other teams. However, there was no “player to be retired or under discussion” next to Kim’s name.
Before the second round of the draft, Hanwha appointed Jung Woo-ram as its playing coach, preventing the player from being named by other teams.
SSG also did not want to discuss Kim’s retirement, saying, “Please wait until the timing of the retirement ceremony is finalized.”
While SSG had the opportunity to prevent Kim from being drafted in the second round, they chose to go the other way.
The SSG teammates who created the “SK Dynasty” era with Kim Kang-min and helped SSG win the 2022 title together have spoken out.
Kim Kwang-hyun posted a photo of himself hugging Kim Kang-min on his social networking service (SNS), saying, “SNS is a waste of life, but I have to do it today. I respect someone’s choice, but I think 23 years shouldn’t be ignored,” and “Goodbye brother. It’s really cold today,” he wrote.
Han Yusum also asked sharply, “Is this right?”
Kim Kang-min’s baseball life is a microcosm of the history of SK and SSG baseball teams.
SSG’s predecessor, SK, named its first “Rookie of the Year” in June 2000, its first year of existence.
The 1999 rookies were selected by the Ssangbangwool Raiders and signed by SK, which took over the Ssangbangwool organization and reorganized it before entering the KBO in 2000.
While the “2000 Rookies” – Lee Seung-ho, Park Jung-kwon, and Uhm Jung-wook – were SK’s first rookies, SK’s own rookies were drafted in 2000 and joined in 2001.
On the 2001 draft roster was Kim Kang-min, a pitcher from Gyeongbuk High School.
Kim was selected by SK in the second round of the 2001 draft with the 18th overall pick.
Of all the players who began their professional careers in the KBO in 2001, Kim has the longest career. In 2022, he became the oldest Korean Series Most Valuable Player.
After 23 years with the same team, many veteran players are disappointed with the club for plunging Kim into this controversy.
Hanwha did the right thing in selecting Kim, and they want him to play for them.
Hanwha President Son Hyuk said, “When I was a pitching coach for SK, I was very impressed with Kim Kang-min’s skills and leadership. I think his current skills will help our outfield in the 2024 season. “I will try to convince him to join our team as a player,” said Hanwha’s president, Kim Kang-min.
There’s not much time to think.
The 10 KBO clubs will submit their “pending player lists” to the KBO on May 25.
Hanwha plans to put Kim’s name on the list if he agrees to extend his contract.
After the 25th, Kim will effectively become a Hanwha player.
Hanwha has every reason to ask Kim Kang-min to extend his active duty. However, SSG, which will be speaking with Kim soon, cannot make any demands on a player selected by another team in the second round of the draft.
After the 2023 season, Kim Kang-min had many options. However, ‘extending his playing career with another team’ was not one of his options.
SSG’s inaction forced Kim to make a “difficult choice. 사설토토