In 2023, the fifth year of his full-time career, Park Chan-ho (KIA Tigers) had his best season since his professional debut. His report card is 136 hits in 452 at-bats for 130 games with a batting average of 0.301, three homers, 52 RBIs, 73 runs scored, and 30 stolen bases (OPS + on-base plus slugging).
Park Chan-ho, who joined KIA as the 50th pick in the fifth round of the second rookie draft in 2014, has played more than 130 games every season for five consecutive years since the 2019 season. By removing the “promising star” label, he has emerged as a clear starting infielder, and last year, he raised his value with a batting average of .300 for his first time since debut and 30 steals for two consecutive years.
Park Chan-ho, who was recognized for his contribution in salary negotiations this winter, became the highest-paid player among non-FA contract renewals (excluding foreign players). His salary increased by 50 percent from 200 million won last year to 300 million won.라바카지노
After wrapping up the third day of the spring camp at Ball Park in Nara, Canberra, Australia, on the 3rd, Park Chan-ho said, “It was positive that I raised the numbers a lot in various indicators. Since baseball does not have a correct answer, I cannot name just one reason, and I think a number of factors have been combined as if cogs were engaged.”
What was the biggest gain? “I was able to relax at bat, and I think it was a good match for me to predict and think about how the opponent team’s battery would play against me. I don’t know why technically. I think I have improved through analysis,” Park said. “I tend to refer to data from the data team a lot. I was able to think about such things because I could understand the propensity of the opponent team’s battery, the characteristics of the pitcher, and the location to some extent.”
The defense was not bad, either. Park made 15 mistakes, fewer than in 2021 (24 errors) and 2022 (22 errors). “This is what I was confident about in defense originally. Of course, he made a lot of mistakes, but I didn’t think his defense capability was evaluated as an error. I think I was able to do my best because my defense coach, Park Ki-nam, trusted me. Giving trust is a big help to a player in itself,” he said.
Park Chan-ho also said, “My coach emphasized that I should do what I want to do. Even when I train like now, I feel responsible because he considers me to take a rest when I feel tired and believes that I will take care of myself. I think he likes that kind of environment. If you can repay your faith like that, it creates a better synergy effect and things that you move autonomously will help you,” in expressing gratitude to Coach Park Ki-nam.
Park Chan-ho, who also gave credit to the coach for his baserunning ability, said, “You just move while looking at the materials that the baserunning coach Cho Jae-young is preparing. The coach makes everything that he steals,” he said. “Since he is not a player who can steal at a very high speed no matter what pitcher comes out like (Kim) Do-young, he moves a lot depending on the data he prepared in advance.”
What bothered Park was his injury. He injured his finger while sliding headfirst against the Daegu Samsung Lions on Sept. 12 last year, and was unable to hit normally. He was not excluded from the entry, but he was not able to show off his 100 percent condition.
In addition, Park was injured when he was hit in the forearm by a pitch from KT pitcher Lee Sun-woo in Game 2 of the doubleheader against the KT Wiz at Suwon KT Wiz Park on Oct. 4. A hospital examination revealed that the diagnosis of a left ulnar crushing fracture required pin fixation and 12 weeks of rehabilitation alone. In the end, Park’s 2023 season ended that way.
Not only Park Chan-ho, but also Na Sung-bum and Choi Hyung-woo, there were many big and small injuries in KIA throughout the season. Park Chan-ho, who had to watch the scene, said, “I was confident that I wouldn’t get hurt, but I was a bit disappointed because it happened. I felt strange. I never imagined myself going through something like this,” adding, “That was a very important period, and I personally had a good pace.”
“All the batters performed well in the right place, and I felt something was wrong as one of them left the team. Honestly, I thought I could play then (in September). After about three days after the injury, I felt I could hold the bat. I came to the plate two weeks later, but there was no difference between three days later and two to three weeks later,” Park said. “Rather, I thought it would have been better if this happened at the beginning of the season, and I blamed myself a lot because I thought the situation of the team could have changed.”
Park Chan-ho, who entered the offseason leaving behind the disappointment of the 2023 season, was nominated in the shortstop category at the KBO Golden Glove Awards held in December last year. He had a fierce competition with Oh Ji-hwan (LG Twins), the MVP of the Korean Series. Oh Ji-hwan (154 votes) held the golden glove, but Park Chan-ho (120 votes) had only a 34-vote gap. Voters highly appreciated Park’s performance.
In particular, Park participated in the award ceremony at a time when he was not sure whether he would win the award or not, and received attention from many fans for his “dignity in second place.” “I expected that such attention would be paid to him. I went to the award ceremony to prepare for it. I was curious about the scenery and atmosphere of the award ceremony as I did at the interview, but I thought there was no way to go, and I was an “uninvited guest” to go. I didn’t think I would win the award, but I still managed to get a lot of votes this time,” Park said.
“Since I was mentioned like this, I thought that I would come up with a better picture if I congratulate them together,” he said. “After seeing the result of 120 votes, I thought to myself, ‘You’ve grown a lot.’ When did I dream about that? I didn’t walk on a solid path like other people did. When I look back on my career, I had a lot of ups and downs, but now that I’m in that position, I’m more greedy.”
I don’t have any particular resolution.