Kia Tigers pitcher Ko Young-chang, an 11-year member of the original club and a native of Gwangju, has decided to retire from active play. The decision to leave his longtime team was certainly not easy. However, he recognized his limitations and decided to hang up his glove and move on to the next chapter of his baseball career.
On November 2, KIA announced that it had decided not to renew the contracts of four players, including pitcher Ko Young-chang, Nam Ha-joon, Song Hoo-seop, and Park Il-hoon, for the 2024 season. It also requested the KBO to remove pitcher Na Yong-ki, catcher Bae Hyun-ho, infielders Kim Yong-wan and Park Seung-hoon, and outfielder Doo Seok.
KIA also informed the KBO that it will not re-sign pitching coach Jung Myung-won. Chung wore the KIA uniform in the 2021 season under former manager Cho Kye-hyun. After serving as the pitching coach for the first team in 2021, Chung took over as the head coach of the Future Team in 2022 and focused on development. In 2023, Chung was promoted back to first-team pitching coach, but midway through the season, he switched roles with Seo Jae-heng to become the reserve pitching coach, leaving the team at the end of the 2023 season.
The most prominent player on the list is Ko Young-chang. Born in 1989 and drafted by the team in the sixth round (53rd overall) of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, Ko made his first-team debut in 2018 after a long stint in the second team.
His breakout season came in 2019. He appeared in 55 games (54 innings) in 2019, posting a 1-3 record, one save, 10 holds, and a 3.50 ERA as a mainstay in the team’s bullpen.
In 2020, Ko struggled in 48 games with a 1-1 record, one save, and a 6.83 ERA in two appearances. His role in the first team diminished somewhat over the course of the 2021 (24 games) and 2022 (27 games) seasons, and he finished the 2023 season without a single first-team appearance. In the Futures League in 2023, Ko went 1-1 with a 5.64 ERA, 16 strikeouts and 15 walks in 38 games (44.2 innings pitched).
Ko had already informed the organization at the end of the season that he would retire from active play. When contacted after the announcement of his release on November 2, he said, “I played for a team for 11 years, which was a long time and a short time. Thanks to the support of the KIA fans, I was able to play baseball with gratitude. There are now many good juniors under me, and I decided that I was no longer competitive, so I informed the club of my intention to retire at the end of the season. The only motivation for me to join was (Park) Jun-pyo (laughs). When I saw juniors who were much older than me joining the team, I felt that a lot of time had passed.”
Ko recalled his first and last double-digit hold in the 2019 season. “At that time, I was wondering if I could stay in the game longer, but I met Coach Seo Jae-heng and it was a turning point. I learned a two-seam fastball and threw it, and in 2019, I had 무지개토토 도메인 my best performance since my debut. I still dream about that time when I pitched four years ago (laughs). I don’t know if I’ll ever have a moment as exciting and fun as that again,” he laughed.