There’s a baseball player who spends his week as both a coach and a player. Kim Moon-ho is a former Lotte Giants player, current coach at Dongwon University of Science and Technology, and current player for the Monsters. Kim was drafted by the Lotte Giants with the 17th overall pick in the third round of the 2006 KBO Draft. After retiring from the game in 2020 after a year with the Hanwha Eagles, Coach Kim is now a coach at Dongwon University of Science and Technology (Dongwon University of Science and Technology), where he focuses on fostering the next generation. He also meets baseball fans every week as a member of the hit entertainment program “Strongest Baseball,” which began airing in 2022.
When we met for this interview, Coach Kim was in such good shape that he could have been an active player. One look at him and you can tell he’s serious about coaching the Dongwon Expectations and playing for the Monsters. We chose Moon-ho Kim to be our first guest for the second season of Busan Baseball Diary because he’s one of the hottest baseball people in the game, and he has a lot to say about the Lotte Giants, the rookie draft, Choi Gang Baseball, and more. The following is a transcript of our interview with Coach Kim.
Was there a particular moment that inspired you to start playing baseball?
My hometown is Jeju Island, and at the time, the elementary school I was attending had a baseball team. When I was in the third grade, my homeroom teacher looked at me and said, “I think he should play baseball.” I was a little taller then, so my homeroom teacher encouraged me to play baseball because I was taller, and I wanted to play sports at that time. I told my parents right away, and they were really against it at first, because I have two older sisters and I’m the youngest, so I guess they didn’t think I would be an athlete. I kept bugging them, and then I was lucky enough to get their permission. (Laughs) Initially, the agreement was that I would only play until elementary school.
Coach Kim Moon-ho was one of the biggest stars in the country when he was an amateur at Deoksujung High School (now Deoksugo High School). In the center of Duksugo’s batting lineup for the national championships, Kim Moon-ho was always a steady presence in the center, and he was a hitter who lived up to the team’s expectations every time he stepped up to the plate. As an amateur, he was no stranger to being called a “genius hitter,” and that’s how he was drafted by the Lotte Giants. But for Kim, who was born in Jeju Island and spent his school years in Seoul, Busan must have been an unfamiliar city. We asked Kim how he felt when he was named.
I understand that you had no connection to Busan before joining the Lotte Giants. How did you feel when you were drafted by the Lotte Giants?
Honestly, I was confused at first, because I went to middle and high school in Seoul, so I wanted to play baseball for a Seoul team. After I was drafted by the Lotte Giants in Busan, I was worried about whether I could do well since I didn’t know anyone there. At that time, I didn’t have any relatives and didn’t know anything except that Kang Min-ho’s brother was from Jeju Island, so I was very worried. But right after I was drafted, I started getting a lot of applications from Lotte fans on my Facebook page. I felt the enthusiasm of Lotte fans. (Laughs) I thought, ‘It would be really fun to go to Lotte.
In 2015, you started to make your presence felt by hitting .300. Before that, Lotte had a lot of really good players in the outfield, including Kim Joo-chan, Jeon Jun-woo, and Son Ah-seop. Did you feel overwhelmed by that situation?
Competition is inevitable when you come to the pros, and no matter how good you are every year, it’s a position competition that can change overnight. I think I took it in stride. I knew I wasn’t good enough, so I realized early on that if I didn’t work harder, the outfield wouldn’t be my place for the rest of my life. I think I actually took the professional stage a little too easy when I joined, but when I got there, it was a place where all the flying and crawling players were gathered. I regret that I overlooked that fact,
It was a series of performances that did not live up to the reputation of a high school genius hitter. At the beginning of Kim’s career, the Lotte Giants’ outfield was filled with national team players. It wasn’t easy to make one of those spots your own. Kim Moon-ho was more of a backup than a starter. But then his chance came. In 2015, he started to prove himself with a 3-6 record and 88 hits in 93 games. He then exploded in 2016, breaking the .400 mark at the start of the season and becoming the centerpiece of Lotte’s batting order. Cho Won-woo, the manager of Lotte at the time, showed his faith in Kim by consistently playing him. Although his pace slowed down as the season progressed, Kim lived up to his manager’s expectations with a career-high 171 hits in 32.2PPG. Kim attributes her career-high performance to her faith.
In 2016, you finally regained your high school fame. You had a career-high. You started the season with a 3-for-5 batting average and ended the season with 172 hits. I still have a lot of memories of you hitting sharp pitches with your intuition. (Laughs) What was your secret at the time?
The biggest thing was that the coach believed in me. Honestly, if you have similar skills, it’s really energizing for a player to have a coach who keeps playing you. If you have a bad day, you can’t help but worry about, ‘What if I can’t play tomorrow?’ It’s a very valuable opportunity for a player to be able to relieve such worries. I think it was a big thing that I had a lot of hits with a good bat in the beginning, but I’m really grateful to the coach who kept giving me opportunities at that time.
Kim Moon-ho’s most famous nickname is “The Big Hitter.” What do you think of this nickname?
I’m very grateful for the nickname, which was given to me by my best friend Jung Hoon, who is still playing hard in the field. I’m very grateful to Jung Hoon, but I think it’s a nickname I don’t deserve (laughs).
If you could summarize your professional life in one word, what word would you choose?
I would choose ‘eventful’. I’ve had a tough life in the second team, I’ve had a short stint in the first team, I’ve made sports news, I’ve had interviews, I’ve had all those valuable experiences. It’s been very eventful.
While interviewing Kim, this reporter suddenly had a question. I wondered what Coach Kim thought about the Lotte Giants’ current form after their hot start to the season. After all, the Lotte Giants are a team that follows a similar pattern every year, with a strong start to the season, a mid-season slump, and a late-season comeback that leaves you wanting more. Having spent 14 seasons with the Giants, I was curious to hear his perspective on the current state of the organization.
How do you see the Lotte Giants doing this season?
As a fan of the Lotte Giants, I thought, “This year is going to be really different,” because I’ve gone from being a player to being a fan. The Lotte Giants were so great at the beginning of the season when they were on a winning streak. Baseball is a sport where flow is really important, so I thought, “This year, we’re going to play fall baseball. But I’m looking at it positively. There are a lot of young players coming up, and I think it’s essential for the future of the team, and it’s important to have a new structure, so we have good leaders who can guide these young players, but I hope there will be more in the future.
The interview was conducted a day before the KBO rookie draft. As the leader of a group of players who dream of being drafted by a professional organization, I couldn’t help but ask Coach Kim some relevant questions.
Based on today’s interview dates, the rookie draft is tomorrow. I’m sure the players are eagerly awaiting their draft picks, how are you looking at it?
I watched the draft last year from round one to the end. I wasn’t even there when I was drafted. (Laughs) I don’t really know how this is going to play out, because I have two sons, and of course I don’t know if I’m going to let them play or not, but I feel like I’m in the shoes of a parent now. The parents of the players are probably the most eager, but I’m also very eager because it could be a place where I’ll be judged as ‘Coach Kim’. I really want my students to go to the professional stage.스포츠토토
On the day of the interview, Coach Kim was more eager than anyone else for his students to be drafted by a professional team, and I wonder if it was through his eagerness. Son Yong-jun (drafted in the third round by the LG Twins), Kim Joo-hoon (drafted in the fifth round by the Kiwoom Heroes), and Kim Min-jae (drafted in the eighth round by the Kia Tigers), all members of the baseball team at Dongwon University of Science and Technology, are the protagonists. Dongwon University of Science and Technology’s baseball team produced a whopping three draft picks in the 2024 KBO Rookie Draft held on September 14. Considering that most clubs prefer high school players and that Dongwon University of Science and Technology is a team that has just been founded, the three picks are a great achievement. Although the U-League Wangjungwang is not over yet, it would not be an exaggeration to say that Coach Kim’s season has been a success.
To learn more about Coach Kim’s story and player Kim Moon-ho’s ‘strongest baseball’ story, check out the second installment of Busan Baseball’s Coach Kim Moon-ho. For more interviews, you can watch the video above or on our YouTube channel.