The KIA Tigers made changes to their pitching coaching staff on the 26th. Instead of renewing the contracts with first-team main coach Seo Jae-eung and Kwak Jeong-cheol, bullpen coach Jeong Jae-hoon and Lee Dong-geol were hired from outside.
Coach Seo Jae-eung, who played in the Major League Baseball (MLB) during his days as a player, joined KIA in December 2007 and played until the 2016 season. After working as a commentator for a broadcasting company for a while, he returned to the KIA uniform as a pitching coach starting in the 2018 season and coached juniors until this season.
Coach Seo Jae-eung was like a support to the pitchers. This was especially true for young pitchers in their first to fourth years of play, such as Lee Ui-ri, Jeong Hae-young, and Choi Ji-min. Ahead of the 2023 season, closing pitcher Jeong Hae-young showed his trust and affection enough to say, “Coach Seo Jae-eung, who helped me a lot in the second team, has returned to the first team. I want to show how I have grown.”
Coach Seo Jae-eung’s dismissal was also unfortunate news for the players. Ace Yang Hyeon-jong left a message on his personal social media (SNS), saying, “Nice Guy Coach Seo Jae-eung, who guided me well like a senior or an older brother. I am so grateful and I am sorry.”
KIA failed to advance to the postseason (PS), finishing in 6th place with 73 wins, 2 draws, and 69 losses in the 2023 regular season. The team’s strength was weakened due to a series of key players leaving the field due to injuries. 메이저놀이터
The average ERA of the KIA pitching staff was 4.13, 5th in the league. The bullpen ranked 2nd with a rating of 3.81. It was difficult to see it as a bad performance. However, after careful consideration, the KIA front office decided to make a change. I also knew that I would have to endure criticism from fans and internal turmoil.
KIA general manager Shim Jae-hak said, “It was not a decision made out of a sense of responsibility (for the team’s performance). Coach Seo has done a really good job so far, and there were no shortcomings. However, the atmosphere needed to be reformed.” He continued, “I also had a lot of experience being fired (as a coach), so it was really difficult to talk to Coach Seo Jae-eung. I tried to show respect in my own way. I also feel bad.”
Although general manager Shim Jae-hak refrained from saying anything, it appears that internally, the need to strengthen the pitching staff and change game management was raised. And to make this happen, coaches Jeong Jae-hoon and Lee Dong-geol were recruited.
Director Shim Jae-hak described the two newly joined coaches as “studying leaders.” Coach Jae-Hoon Jeong said that whenever he attended an external seminar related to baseball, he was there and noticed. He said that while talking with him, he felt his willingness to delve deeper into baseball. Coach Lee Dong-geol also explained, “Among baseball players, coaching know-how is sometimes referred to as drill (training performed repeatedly), and it was impressive to see him confidently appeal the drill in front of various coaches.”
Coach Jeong Jae-hoon contributed to creating a strong bullpen in 2021 when he was a member of the Doosan Bears, and received the Coach Award at the Cho-A Pharmaceutical Professional Baseball Awards. Coach Lee Dong-geol served as a coach with the Hanwha Eagles Power Analysis Center and helped pitchers such as Jang Si-hwan and Jang Min-jae create the most suitable ball combinations.
Coach Seo Jae-eung’s shadow looms large among the newly joined coaches. Coaches Jaehoon Jeong and Donggeol Lee have heavy shoulders. There is growing interest in what results KIA’s choice will lead to.