Defending KBO champions KT Wiz have bull’s-eye on back

SEOUL-- Befitting their status as the defending champions in South Korean baseball, the KT Wiz had a bull's-eye on their back during the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) media day Thursday.

The regular season starts at 2 p.m. Saturday at five stadiums across the country. The Wiz will host the Samsung Lions at KT Wiz Park in Suwon, some 45 kilometers south of Seoul.

Last year, the two clubs finished the 144-game regular season with an identical record of 76-59-9 (wins-losses-ties). Then the Wiz beat the Lions 1-0 in a rare tiebreaker game to advance directly to the Korean Series, where they swept the Doosan Bears for the franchise's first championship.

The Lions' veteran closer Oh Seung-hwan said he doesn't want to go through the same heartbreak.

"This year, we want to run away with the regular season title, so we won't have a repeat of last year's events," he said.

Oh's teammate in the outfield, Koo Ja-wook, said he couldn't wait to get a chance at revenge.

"I am looking forward to that opening weekend series," Koo said. "Since we lost to KT last year in the tiebreaker, we want to get the better of them this year."

Jose Miguel Fernandez, representing the Bears, joined the choir.

"It was disappointing to settle for second place last year behind KT," the Cuban designated hitter said. "We'd love to beat them this year."

Kim Kwang-hyun of the SSG Landers, back in the KBO after two years with the St. Louis Cardinals, quipped the Wiz should enjoy being Public Enemy No. 1 in South Korean baseball. He was speaking from experience, having won four Korean Series titles himself.

"It's always more difficult to defend your title than to win it the first time," Kim said. "Personally, I'd love to pitch better against them. I've struggled against that team my whole career."

Kim has a 7.60 ERA and a 3-3 record in 10 career appearances against the Wiz.

So Hyeong-jun, the third-year starter for the Wiz, said he didn't mind hearing from other players that they're going after the Wiz.

"That gives me extra motivation to defend our trophy," the right-hander added.

So's new teammate, Park Byung-ho, wasn't with the Wiz when they won the 2021 Korean Series. He was still playing for the Kiwoom Heroes, a team still looking for their first title, and signed with the Wiz as a free agent this past winter. Being part of a championship-winning team and being at the center of attention was all new to Park.

"I think I have a great chance to win my first championship here," Park said. "We've got a great team. I hope I can contribute to our successful title defense."

Source: Yonhap News Agency