Entering the final year of his three-year, 2.5 billion won free agent contract, Kim Jae-ho, 38, is burning with a veteran’s flame. He has been working hard since last winter to make up for his poor performance in the past two years and is now looking at an extension rather than retirement.
Kim Jae-ho started at second base in the 11th game of the 2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO League against NC at Jamsil Stadium in Seoul on April 19, going 1-for-3 with a home run and two RBIs to lead his team to a 4-1 victory and an end to a five-game losing streak.
The hits came when it mattered most. With the score tied at 0-0 in the fifth inning, there were runners on second and third. With Cho stealing second and the bases loaded, Kim Jae-ho took a 153-kilometer fastball from KBO’s best pitcher, Eric Pedi, on the fourth pitch of a five-pitch at-bat and hit an exquisite two-run double between first base and the foul line. It was the game-winning hit.
After the game, Kim Jae-ho said, “I was hesitant in the first and second at-bats because it was my first time facing him, but it was a good result at the end. He’s the best pitcher in the league, so the ball was definitely good,” he said with a smile, adding, “The other players must have had a lot of trouble, but I was the one with the best feel for the team, and I got a good hit with good energy.”
Kim Jae-ho is 38 years old this year. Born in 1985, he has been playing professionally for 20 years, having been selected by Doosan in the first round of the 2004 rookie draft. For him, age is just a number. This year, he has the second-best batting average on the team (3.1 pounds, 8 runs) behind Yang (3.2 pounds, 3 runs). With Yang Ji sidelined, Kim Jae-ho is the best hitter on the team right now. He’s on pace to match his career-high 2018 (3-for-1 with 16 home runs).
“Since the end of last year, I’ve been preparing as if this is my last year,” Kim said, “and my confidence has dropped a lot because of my injuries, so I just wanted to regain my confidence in camp. Fortunately, I was able to bat without pain, so I was satisfied.” “I didn’t play a lot of games at the beginning of the season, so I couldn’t improve my confidence, but after I went to the second team once, the results went well and I gained confidence. I think it’s a process of getting back to my old self little by little.”
Indeed, Kim has worked harder than anyone else to prepare for the 2023 season, which could be the last of his career. It started with spring training in Australia. He stood in the front row during warm-ups, chanting his battle cry, and put his body on the line during fielding drills, just like the young prodigy shortstop of yesteryear. Kim Jae-ho sweated thickly to turn the boos of the past two years into applause. 스포츠토토
Nevertheless, Kim Jae-ho lost his shortstop spot to a junior in the midst of a severe early-season slump. After batting 1-for-6 in the month of April, he was the first shortstop to be designated for assignment on May 5. At the time, Kim Jae-ho was unimpressed with the idea of extending his active duty.
“I’ve been struggling a lot, but at my age, I don’t have the physical strength to play full-time, and I’m sure the manager and the club know that, and I’ve been working hard to find a post-Jae-ho, but here we are. A professional has a chance.