Backup outfielder voted Korean Series MVP thanks to clutch home runs

INCHEON– He didn’t start any game in the Korean Series, but nearly every time he came off the bench, SSG Landers slugger Kim Kang-min made a huge impact.

That’s why Kim, despite logging only eight at-bats in five games, was voted the MVP of the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) championship round on Tuesday, following the Landers’ 4-3 win over the Kiwoom Heroes in clinching Game 6.

Kim, who went 3-for-8 with two home runs and five RBIs, received 42 out of 77 votes cast by the media for the MVP honor. At 40, Kim became the oldest Korean Series MVP. Also in this series, Kim became the oldest player to homer in a KBO postseason game.
One of those two home runs changed the complexion of the entire series.

The Landers entered the bottom of the ninth in Game 5 on Monday trailing 4-2, three outs away from going down 3-2 in the best-of-seven series at home. After the first two batters reached with a walk and a single, Kim was brought in as a pinch hitter.

Then at 0-2 count, Kim jumped on a hanging slider from Choi Won-tae and sent it into the left field seats for a heartstopping three-run home run. The two-run deficit turned into a 5-4 victory for the Landers, thanks to the very first pinch-hit walkoff home run in Korean Series history.

Kim had one other home run in the series, which also came in the bottom ninth. In Game 1 last Tuesday, the Landers blew a 5-4 lead in the top ninth on a two-run shot by the Heroes’ pinch hitter Jeon Byeong-woo. Then in the bottom half of that frame, Kim returned the favor with a pinch-hit blast of his own, a solo shot that sent the game to extra innings.

The Landers lost that game 7-6 in 10 innings, but the message had been sent. Kim Kang-min would always lurk in the dugout, ready to step in at a moment’s notice to do some damage.

“Coming into the series, I knew exactly what my role would be. I knew I would pinch hit in late innings when we needed offense,” Kim said. “I am really happy to have executed my job to perfection.”

Despite his memorable home runs, Kim said he never thought he’d win the MVP award.

“I know I hit that dramatic home run, but I had three hits the whole series,” Kim said with a smile. “And that homer didn’t come in the title-clinching game. It gave us the third win of the season. So I didn’t think I’d get this award.”

Throughout the series, Kim said he felt his teammates were in such great form that he wouldn’t get that many opportunities to pinch hit. He ended up being one of the biggest stars of the series.

“This is not what I wanted. I just wanted to stay in the background and let other guys take center stage,” Kim said with a smile. “All I wanted was to win the championship. I would have been perfectly fine with that.”

Kim has now won five Korean Series rings, four of them while the team was called the SK Wyverns in 2007, 2008, 2010 and 2018. He said he never shed any tears on those previous titles runs, but he was almost inconsolable after Tuesday’s title clincher.

“I think I’ve mellowed with age. Winning a title in my 40s hits me on a much different level,” Kim said. “This could well be my last championship, too. And once that thought entered my mind, I started crying even more.”

Though Kim may never win another title, it doesn’t mean he is ready to hang up his spikes yet.

“I’d like to keep playing baseball as long as my body allows it,” Kim said. “Now, I don’t have any major goal. I just want to go out there and have fun with some young players. I will take care of my body so that I’ll be back here next year and having fun with the boys.”

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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