“I took a day off yesterday. I started working out again today.”

Over the receiver, Kim Joo-hyun, 30, sounded enthusiastic. He may be out of a Lotte Giants uniform, but his passion for baseball is unwavering.스포츠토토

“It’s not that I was injured this year,” he said, “it’s just a result of the team’s situation.” When I contacted him on the 15th, he made it clear that he would be knocking on the door for an extension.

He had a bumpy baseball life. In high school, he transferred from Gyeonggi High to Bukil High in search of a coach who could improve his game. He was once called the “next Kim Tae-gyun” because of his imposing physique of 1.86 meters, 110 kilograms, and a good leadoff hitter.

He was drafted by Hanwha as a first-round pick but failed to make an impact. In 2019, he switched to Lotte in a two-for-two trade, but even then, he was overshadowed by the main trade chips, Jang Si-hwan and Ji Siwan.

However, he was recognized as a prospect. He was especially well-received for his first base defense and leading off. He was a hard-working prospect who received training at the Chicago Cubs prospect camp with Kim Jae-yoo, Bae Sung-geun, and Kim Dong-gyu before the 2020 season.

Lotte’s Kim Ju-hyun. Sports Chosun DB
However, this year, Kim Jae-yoo, who suffered from a leg injury, and Bae Sung-geun, who failed to make a breakthrough in his pitching career, announced their retirements one after another. Kim Joo-hyun was also released, leaving only Kim Dong-kyu, who was recently discharged from the military.

During his time with Hanwha and the National Police Agency, Kim was a mediocre hitter who hit in the low-to-mid 20s for the Futures. But after joining Lotte, he opened up. In 2021, he had a breakout year, batting .383 with a 1.012 OPS (on-base percentage + slugging percentage) (second best in the Futures).

However, he only received 17 plate appearances (16-for-4). And that’s all he got in his four years with Lotte. Looking back on the past, Kim repeatedly said, “It’s a shame.”

Kim Joo-hyun of Lotte. Sports Chosun DB
This year, he was even told by the club, “I think we should give the younger players a chance, and ask you to play a substitute role (in the Futures).” The arrival of Kyunghee University junior Lee Jung-hoon from the KIA Tigers narrowed the door for the left-handed hitter to make the first team.

While he heated up in June, batting 4-for-33 with seven RBIs in 16 at-bats, he was limited to five at-bats in four games in July. He was eventually designated for assignment on August 13. His last at-bat came on August 6, when he went 2-for-3 against the LG Twins’ second team.

His lack of long ball power for a first baseman of his size and stature was a hindrance.

“At Hanwha, I changed my swing to fit the ‘floating ball revolution,’ but the results were not good. When I came to Lotte, I learned a lot from Lee Dae-ho, Jeon Jun-woo, and Jeong Hoon, and now I feel like I know how to hit a little bit…I wanted to do well, but it’s a shame.”

LOTTE’s Kim Joo-hyun. Sports Chosun DB
Kim will continue to train privately for the time being and wait to hear from other teams. “I still have a big desire to play baseball,” he said. “I want to go back to my alma mater and keep my body as strong as possible. I’m going to go back to my alma mater, and I’m going to keep my body moving as much as possible to get ready.”

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