Coach “Yasin” Kim Seong-geun often praised LG Twins’ battery coach Park Gyeong-wan (51), a “favorite disciple” with whom he had a relationship since the days of the Ssangbangwool Raiders head coach (1996-1999). “He was a player who accounted for more than 50% of the team’s power. In particular, when the pitcher’s condition was not good, he was excellent at leading.”
SSG Landers coach Won-hyung Kim, a “soul mate” who worked with coach Park Gyeong-wan during elementary, middle and high school, a꽁머니사이트 nd on the professional stage, said, “It is most important that the pitcher and catcher have the same direction in a (losing) crisis, but (Park) Kyung-wan I don’t remember shaking my head twice at Lee’s autograph. He looked back, saying, “He is the catcher who knew me well.” Kim Kwang-hyeon (SSG), who grew up under Coach Park’s lead from his rookie days and reached the Major League (MLB) stage, said, “Meeting a great catcher named Park Kyung-wan is the greatest luck in my baseball life.”
The evaluation of coaches and colleagues explains what kind of catcher Park Kyung-wan was. He was one of the best players in Korean professional baseball history. He maximized the ability of a pitcher with a clever lead, and the basic skills that a catcher should have, such as catching, blocking, and stealing, were also top-notch. He debuted on the professional stage in 1991, played for 23 seasons, wore five championship rings, and won four Golden Gloves. His hitting was so good that he won the home run king twice. In 2000, he became the second catcher MVP after former SK coach Lee Man-soo.
Coach Park Kyung -wan, who
looked back on his days as a player who received ‘absolute trust’ from coach Seong-geun Kim, said, “I was envious of others, but honestly, I felt a lot of pressure. There were times when the manager consulted with me (about pitching management) instead of the pitching coach,” he said, looking back. So how much do you have to wrap your hair?” he smiled.
Coach Park Kyung-wan did not neglect to recover the game even when he was a veteran with full years of players. At some point, he said sitting in the sauna and visualizing the next match became his way to relieve stress.
Coach Park Kyung-Wan was the only legendary catcher who spoke with him, clearly expressing his belief in ‘good ball mix’. He raised his voice, saying, “It’s best to catch 3 out counts with 3 on any ball.” He added, “The key is to catch as many outcounts as possible with the fewest number by grasping the pitcher, the batter, and the situation in all directions.”
It means that data, the strengths and weaknesses of the team’s pitcher, and the opponent’s response should be considered. In fact, other legends I talked to shared similar thoughts.
Coach Park Kyung-wan’s thoughts are a little more detailed. He said, “If you are a hitter who can’t hit the inside ball, can’t you hit it if (the ball) continues to come in enough to get used to? If the pitcher throws a forkball well that day, and the catcher keeps giving the same pitch sign, eventually one (hit or home run) will be hit. That’s baseball,” he said. “It can’t be helped that the ball combination is evaluated as a result theory. We need to admit that baseball is a game of probability, analyze and respond in more detail.” He said that although there are times when you have to follow the rules and formulas, you should always keep in mind the formula that gives variations according to the situation or batter.
Coach Park Kyung-wan gave an example of a game match based on the trend that more hitters prefer the uppercut swing from a few years ago to help understand. The best result that a battery in crisis with one out and third base can draw is a strikeout or an infield grounder. Throwing the ball at a low course to induce a ground ball is the standard, but coach Park Kyung-wan believes that inducing a fly ball is also a breakthrough when you dig into the weakness of the uppercut swing with a high fastball. In order to dazzle the batter’s eyes, sometimes a hitter with an uppercut swing has to show a strong low course.
Coach Park Kyung-wan says that the key to the ideal ball mix is that the more catchers know, the more options they have to overwhelm the batter. He emphasized, “Even if there is a batter who is evaluated as weak on the outside, the catcher must know exactly which speed or course is weak.”
Cultivating a pitcher is a catcher’s sense of duty
Coach Park Kyung-wan was the best catcher of his time as a player and a ‘Geopo’ who recorded 314 homers in his career. He showed how a good catcher can make a huge impact.
Even then, when asked, “Isn’t baseball a catcher’s game?” he said firmly, “Baseball is (commonly said) a pitcher’s play.” He then emphasized again, “You have to hit well, but you can become a strong team only when you have power on the mound.”
Coach Park Kyung-wan believes that the catcher’s role is the greatest for pitchers to demonstrate their skills and grow. He regarded ‘pitcher management’ and ‘pitcher development’ as his mission. It was also a baseball value that he engraved while receiving guidance from coaches Beom-hyun Cho and Seong-geun Kim from his professional introduction.
Coach Park Kyung-wan said, “Catcher is a position that plays a special supporting role. He needs a pitcher to be able to rely on like a mother. I went through my playing career with that mindset, and even now, as his leader, I give that kind of advice to his juniors,” he emphasized. He then said, “Supporting pitchers who are in sync to record wins, saves, and holds, and making certain batters’ RBIs become final hits, that’s the catcher,” he said with strength.
It is said that when a young pitcher got on the mound, the sense of responsibility intensified. In general, pitchers with less experience adapt to the first-team stage in the losing and chasing groups, but coach Park Kyung-wan believed that the team could become stronger only when those pitchers grow. He said, “A young pitcher must continue to accumulate successful experiences such as no runs, so that he will have the confidence that’my ball can work’. He said, “I tried to focus on myself first (for the pitcher’s growth), even if it was a situation where the score difference with the opposing team was widening.” In the late 2000s, SK mound pitchers such as Jeon Byung-doo, Song Eun-beom, and Yoon Gil-hyeon grew up with Park Kyung-wan’s consideration during their younger days.
Of course, it’s not just a sense of duty that motivates me. When coach Kim Seong-geun often brought up the pitcher’s name and asked, “Make a pitcher,” I watched the player with curiosity, communicated with him, and gave advice. Coach Park Kyung-wan said, “Although he wasn’t the type to express it directly, he felt proud and said, ‘You’ve grown a lot’ when his skills improved, and he felt a sense of accomplishment in his own way.”
When asked to name the most memorable match as a catcher, coach Kyung-Wan Park, while with SK, beat Kim Hyun-soo (currently LG Twins) with Chae Byeong-yong in the bottom of the 9th inning of the 5th game of the 2008 Korean Series (KS) against the Doosan Bears, with one out and bases loaded. He picked the moment when he confirmed the championship by dealing with double hits (pitcher-catcher-1st baseman). Coach Park said, “(Chae) Byeong-yong showed off a sinker that he didn’t throw well at the beginning of the series. He had a good ball, but when the bases were loaded, he remembered the sinker and used it against (Kim) Hyeon-soo. He said, “I clearly remember the trajectory of the batter’s swing and the trajectory of the ball,” and said, “The ball (sinker Chae Byung-yong) was really good.”
Coach Park Kyung-wan was a supporting actor even in his best moments. He laughed, “Sometimes the role of ‘Licorice’ is enough to be a catcher. But if you live with that mindset, there are things that come back later.”