INCHEON, Among South Korean position players competing at this month’s World Baseball Classic (WBC), no one boasts quite the resume that outfielder Kim Hyun-soo does.
Kim has represented the country nine times internationally, starting with the gold medal-winning performance at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Kim has also won three Asian Games gold medals and the 2015 Premier12 title. In 59 international games, Kim has batted .364 with 46 RBIs.
It’s little wonder that his teammates turned to Kim, literally, when the coaching staff wanted to name the national team captain for the WBC.
“When it came time to vote captain, everyone just looked at me,” Kim said with a smile at Incheon International Airport on Saturday, before flying to Osaka for WBC exhibition games next week. The tournament begins in earnest for South Korea on Thursday in Tokyo.
“I don’t know if I have what it takes to be captain,” Kim said. “I just happen to have this title next to my name. The national team is a collection of great players, and we’ll all do our best and produce great results.”
South Korea will try to get out of the first round for the first time since 2009, when it finished in second place to Japan.
Kim, who was part of that 2009 squad, said this year’s WBC has extra significance on a personal level.
“Every international competition means a lot to me, but this one is especially so because it could be my last one,” the 35-year-old outfielder said. “We’ve been working hard to this point and we’ll have a few more days in Japan before the tournament. So that will give us enough time to be as well prepared as we can.”
South Korean players have long pointed to the opening game against Australia, set for noon Thursday at Tokyo Dome, as the most crucial one of their tournament. Win that game, and the path to the quarterfinals as one of the top two teams in Pool B will be fairly clear. If not, South Korea will face a must-win situation against world No. 1 Japan on Friday night.
Kim said he and his teammates have been watching a lot of clips on Australian pitchers to get themselves familiarized, though stepping into the box in real life will be a different story.
“The stress level isn’t as high when you’re studying pitchers on film. Once we see them in person, we will feel a little bit more nervous,” Kim said. “So we will continue to study film and talk among ourselves about how to best handle those pitchers.”
Source: Yonhap News Agency