“It’s like a dream”.
Kang Baek-ho smiles broadly. He had been struggling with poor performance and panic disorder, but after winning a gold medal at the Hangzhou Asian Games, he lifted the weight off his shoulders.
He went on to play for the national team on three occasions, including the 2019 Premier12, the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, and the 2023 WBC, where he was recognized as an international batsman with a career batting average of 3.662 (17 for 47) with nine wickets and six runs scored.
Off the field, however, Kang has been at the center of controversy. In the top of the eighth inning of the bronze medal game against the Dominican Republic at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, trailing 6-10, he was seen on the broadcast screen in the dugout, chewing gum vigorously. The team, aiming to repeat the glory of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, came up empty-handed. The gum controversy was blamed on Kang Baek-ho.
For a while, he tried to stay away from the scarlet letter of the gum controversy, but he found himself at the center of controversy again. On March 9, in the seventh inning of the first round of the WBC World Baseball Classic against Australia, Kang Baek-ho hit a double with the bases loaded, then took his foot off the base during the celebration and was tagged out.
He arrived in Hangzhou with a sense of urgency, but he was more disappointed than excited. Taking over the No. 4 spot, he was plagued by an unrelenting slump. After being moved to the sixth spot in the batting order by coach Ryu Joong-il, he gradually recovered, and his resurgence began with a three-hit blast, including his first home run against China.
South Korea went on to win its fourth consecutive title with a 2-0 victory over Chinese Taipei, who they met again in the final. After the game, Kang Baek-ho said, “I can’t express my happiness in words. I’ve always been sorry that I didn’t show good results when I came to the national team, but the players played so well that it was like a dream.”
He continued, “I feel like everything is a lie right now. This season has been really hard. It was hard when I came to the national team, and the process was probably the hardest time of my life.” He also confessed that he suffered from panic disorder for four months.
“It wouldn’t have been easy without my older brothers, like Kim Hye-sung and Park Se-woong, who suffered for the team. “I think we were able to win the title because of the younger players’ ambition and the seniors’ good behavior,” he said.
After winning gold at the Hangzhou Asian Games, Kang Baek-ho’s next goal is to win his second Korean Series title. As of Aug. 8, Kang’s KT is in second place with 78 wins, 62 losses and three ties (winning percentage 0.557). They have a four-game lead over third-place Doosan. For now, a direct playoff berth looks likely.캡틴토토
Having tasted the thrill of winning the unified title two years ago, he is determined to continue the Hangzhou golden momentum in the fall.