Kim Ha Sung (28, San Diego Padres) visited Bucheonbuk Elementary School in Bucheon, Gyeonggi-do, on the morning of the 18th. About 20 Bucheon Bukcho baseball juniors gathered on the field early in the morning in their uniforms, practicing and waiting for the future Hall of Famer. Kim was a kid with potential when the Bucheon Bukcho baseball team was just nine players, but 20 years later, he’s back as a major leaguer and a role model for the younger generation.
“When I was younger, the school seemed so big,” he says, “and in the sixth grade, my older brother was about 148 centimeters tall. He was a big kid. He actually hated studying in elementary school. He didn’t like studying, so the teacher would always make him do the rest of the work, and then he would say he had to go to the bathroom and go outside to play baseball. He loved baseball that much,” he laughs as he recalls his elementary school memories.
The young baseball players looked at the major leaguer in wonder and asked him questions they had always wanted to know. Sixth-grader Ji-woong Choi, 12, was the junior who asked the most questions with a twinkle in his eye. Choi, an infielder, dreams of becoming a player who can play defense like Kim. He’s been watching Kim’s defense videos to study, so it was nice to see the senior in person.
“It felt good to see Kim Ha-sung, who is the pride of our school, and I thought he was world-class. I watch a lot of Major League Baseball videos, so I watched a lot of Kim’s plays. I used to watch shortstop, and now I’m watching second base, and I want to be a player who can play good defense like Kim,” he said, smiling broadly as he revealed his dream.
Kim expressed his gratitude to his junior for calling him a role model. “I’m grateful to them that my name comes up when they talk about defense in baseball. I want them to know that a Korean player can be a good infielder in the major leagues, and I want them to dream big.”
Kim started his professional career in 2014 when he was selected by the Nexen Heroes (now the Kiwoom Heroes) with the 29th pick in the third round of the second round of the rookie draft. He succeeded Kang Jeong-ho (now retired) as the Heroes’ starting shortstop until 2020. In 891 career KBO games, he batted .294 (3195-for-940) with 133 home runs, 134 doubles, and 575 RBIs.
In 2021, he tried his hand at the American big leagues. He signed a four-year, $28 million contract with the San Diego Padres to become a major leaguer. As Kim prepared for his first year in the majors, the expectation was that he would have a tough time making the jump to the big leagues because the Padres have a number of top-notch infielders, including Manny Machado, Fernando Tatis Jr. and Jake Cronenweth. This was especially true because Asian infielders, especially center fielders, have not had much success in the big leagues.토토사이트
While Kim struggled at the plate in his first two years as he adjusted to big league pitching, his defense was always consistent. Since his rookie season, he has been one of the best defenders in the majors, and this year he became the first Korean and first Asian infielder to win a Gold Glove. Kim realized his dream of “breaking the stereotype of Asian infielders” by winning the National League’s Gold Glove for utility.
When asked by his peers how it felt to win the Gold Glove, Kim said, “It was great. Not that I was happy to receive the award, but there is a bias in Major League Baseball that Asian infielders are not allowed. I think it was an award that allowed my brother to change his mind to some extent, so I think it was an award that could instill the idea that ‘if Kim Ha-seong can do it, I can do it,’ not only to Asian players, Korean players, but also to Asian players such as Japan and Taiwan.” He spoke openly.
This year, the batting was just as fierce. In 152 games, Kim batted .260 (140-for-538) with a .351 on-base percentage, 17 home runs, 60 RBIs, and 38 stolen bases. He set career highs in every offensive metric and fulfilled the duties of a leadoff hitter, ranking first in stolen bases, second in slugging percentage, and third in on-base percentage on the San Diego team. He was a finalist for the Silver Slugger Award.
When it comes to hitting, Kim said, “It’s confidence and timing. I can’t tell you the timing. It’s yours. To get that timing, confidence is important. You have to be confident that you can hit no matter who is on the mound.”
The most difficult big league pitcher to target was right-hander Jacob deGrom (Texas Rangers). Though he’s been slowed by injuries lately, DeGrom is a top-notch ace who won the National League Cy Young Award in 2018 and 2019 while with the New York Mets. “There’s a pitcher named DeGrom who throws 160 kilometers per hour. That was the hardest pitcher to hit,” he said.
Kim is likely to continue his upward trajectory in the big leagues. Next season, when he enters the final year of his contract with the Padres, some expect him to push Xander Bogaerts for the starting shortstop job. Kim was pushed to second base this year when San Diego signed free agent shortstop Maxwell Bogaerts to an 11-year, $280 million deal, and the team now reportedly sees the best defensive combination as third baseman Machado, shortstop Kim, second baseman Cronenwirth, and first baseman Bogaerts. Kim has a 5.8 wins above replacement (bWAR) this year, which ranks first among San Diego hitters and 11th among all major leaguers. The club is wondering if he’s getting what he deserves.
Kim, who has battled hard in the big leagues for the past three years, smiled at the pure enthusiasm of the juniors. After his visit to Bucheon Bukcho, Kim traveled to Bucheon Middle School, where he spent time supporting the dreams of the younger players. He delivered sponsorship items to the baseball team to help them produce more and better juniors. He donated 10 million won to the Bucheon Bukcho baseball team and 20 million won worth of baseball supplies to the Bucheon Middle School baseball team. In addition to supporting his alma mater, Kim also donated $100,000 (approximately $130,000) to Unicef International to help warm the cold winter months.
“It was a great time,” says Kim. Visiting elementary and middle schools reminded me a lot of my childhood, and I feel like I’m getting strength from the younger kids. I feel a sense of responsibility to work harder. It feels good to know that these kids know me. I had a great day today,” he said with a smile.
“I hope the juniors will dream big and challenge themselves. They’re still young, but the Major League Baseball is good, the Korean Professional Baseball is good, and if they have such a dream and work hard, they will become better players. And I want them to enjoy this time when they can enjoy baseball while they are young. I want you to have fun at your age and dream big. If you have big dreams and set realistic goals one by one and continue to fulfill them, you will become a major league player like me before you know it,” he added, encouraging his juniors.