Kang Baek-ho (KT), the No. 4 hitter for Ryu Joong-il’s Hangzhou Asian Games baseball team, shook his head in the first game against Hong Kong.
Kang started the first game of the Group B preliminary round at the Shaoxing Baseball Stadium in Zhejiang, China, batting fourth.
“I’m in good shape right now,” he said in an official interview at Hangzhou Xiaoshan Airport in Hangzhou, China, on March 28, after batting .355 (10-for-28) with two home runs and seven RBIs in his last 10 games before joining the national team.
With a career batting average of 3.662 (17 for 47) with nine wickets and six runs scored at the 2019 Premier12, the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, and the 2023 WBC, Kang Baek-ho was expected to showcase his fixer-upper instincts from the very first game against Hong Kong.
With great expectations comes great disappointment. He went 0-for-4 with a walk and a strikeout. After striking out swinging with runners on first and second in the first inning, Kang hit a sharp shot with runners on first and second in the third inning with a 1-0 lead, but it was caught by the right fielder. They say there are no “what ifs” in baseball, but it would have been a good momentum builder if it had gone for a hit.
After a bases-loaded walk in the fourth, he struck out swinging in his fourth at-bat in the seventh. In the eighth inning, with runners on first and second and a full count, Kang walked and was replaced by pinch-hitter Kim Ji-chan, ending his day.
Speaking to the media after the game, manager Ryu Jung-il said, “I don’t think his batting is bad, but I feel like he’s a little late getting ready,” adding, “I’m sure he’ll do well against Taiwan tomorrow because they have a pitcher who throws fastballs.”
Kang Baek-ho has been at the center of controversy off the field since joining the national team. Following the chewing gum controversy at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, he was criticized for his ceremonial baserunning at the 2023 World Baseball Classic (WBC).
SBS Sports commentator Lee Dae-ho said, “Personally, I hope Kang Baek-ho can show that ‘I am Kang Baek-ho’ through this tournament.” Lee Soon-cheol, who is known for his commentary on the game, also offered encouragement instead of criticism, saying, “I hope Kang Baek-ho can completely shake off the trauma of the national team this time.”캡틴토토
South Korea will face Chinese Taipei on the 2nd. It is a must-win opponent for Korea to win its fourth consecutive title. Can Kang Baek-ho, who has taken over the No. 4 spot from Ryu Jung-il-ho, make up for his poor performance in Hong Kong by swinging a fire bat against Chinese Taipei?