Kiwoom’s most senior player, Lee Yong-kyu (38), has been named captain again.
“Yesterday, I spoke with Lee Yong-kyu separately and told him that it would be difficult, but I asked him to take over as captain,” Kiwoom coach Hong Won-ki said on Feb. 2.
Kiwoom started the season strong this year with Lee Jung-hoo as captain, but when Lee underwent surgery for an ankle injury and was ruled out for the rest of the season, the team needed to find a new centerpiece. Hong Won-ki immediately thought of Lee Yong-kyu.
Hong made his debut as a head coach with Kiwoom in 2021, and Yong-kyu joined the club that year. As a new manager in a team full of young players, Hong always appreciated Yong-kyu’s gritty competitiveness as a veteran. In that year’s semifinals, the veteran batted until the last at-bat with the game on the line in the second game and played with all his might, and after the team was eliminated, Hong said, “I can’t help but talk about Yong-kyu,” and thanked the veteran.
Yong-kyu was named captain in 2022. Kiwoom made it all the way to the Korean Series after finishing third in the regular season. With Yong-kyu laying down a sacrifice bunt every time, creating chances and leading the team mentally, they were able to fight back to win Game 6 despite being outnumbered.
In Kiwoom’s last season with the team before this year’s U.S. qualification, the squad played as a unit with Lee Jung-hoo as captain, but was hampered by injuries. Kiwoom will now face the rest of the season without the core of their batting order and with a large gap in their lineup after trading away their bullpen core and starting pitchers. Hong Won-ki turned to Lee Yong-kyu again as the face of the team.
Yong-kyu returned to the first team on July 23, just after the start of the second half, after rehabbing from the disabled list after injuring the back of his hand while hitting in late May. In eight games since his return, he is 9-for-28 (.321) with one home run and four RBIs. Coincidentally, Lee Jung-hoo was injured on July 22 against Sasik Lotte and was removed from the roster the next day, so Lee Yong-kyu was called up to fill the gap in the batting order. As soon as he returned from injury, Choi took over the captaincy.안전놀이터
Coach Hong Won-ki said, “The team is going through a tough stretch. I thought the players needed a strong center of gravity, so I asked Lee Yong-kyu to lead the team. There were injuries, so it was hard for him, but he said he understood the importance of the rest of the season. He’s not a ‘temporary captain,’ he’s the captain from now on.”