“I think I can make the team feel better if I play well, but I didn’t.”
Doosan Bears third baseman Heo Kyung-min, 33, wore the captain’s armband for the first time this year. In 2015, when the team reached the Korean Series for the seventh consecutive year, he and his friend Jung Soo-bin, 33, were the youngest members of the team, but now they are veterans. Seniors Kim Jae-ho (38), Yang Yang-ji (36), and Kim Jae-hwan (35), who were part of the golden era, have now taken a step back from the leadership position, and Heo Kyung-min has taken over the mantle from his older brothers.
It’s true that Heo took over the captaincy in a season where he had a lot to think about. Heading into this year, the coaching staff, including head coach Lee Seung-yup, had been replaced, and the squad was much younger. A younger squad also means more inexperienced players. This means that I have a lot of work to do in the dugout and on the field.
It’s not easy to lead a team and still have your own personal performance. Being a captain is a sacrificial position because you have to be willing to lead and lift the team even if you’re not performing well. Heo played in 67 games this season, batting .267 (23-for-62) with an OPS of .679, two home runs, and 22 RBIs. It’s a tough stat line to be happy with.
Still, the rookie captain didn’t forget to look out for his team. Even when the team went 10-14 with a .417 winning percentage in June due to a general slump in the batting order, Heo worked behind the scenes to keep team morale high.
Starting pitcher Kwak Bin, 24, said, “It’s really hot right now, but the Beast brothers always practice separately at home after the game. I think it’s really hot and hard, but the atmosphere is good. (Heo) Kyung-min is leading us well, so we’re doing our best,” he said, while second baseman Kang Seung-ho (29) added, “The whole team is laughing and keeping the atmosphere as bright as possible, centered on our captain, Kyung-min.”
First baseman Yang Seok-hwan (32) said, “We are close to the bottom (of the leaderboard), but we are also close to the top. From Kyung-min to (Yang) Ji-won, (Kim) Jae-hwan, and (Kim) Jae-ho are telling us to look up rather than down,” he said, emphasizing that the team is working together to regain a 5 percent winning percentage in the first half.
After hearing the voices of the juniors giving credit to the captain, Heo Kyung-min said, “I think the team atmosphere can be better if I play well, but I didn’t do that. I think I should have tried to lighten the mood by saying something more playful. I’m grateful that my teammates think so,” he said.
Being captain made her more responsible for the team’s wins and losses. “I think it’s a season where the team wins more than my performance. I think we’re about halfway through the season now, and it’s not what I thought it would be, but we’ll do our best to win one game at a time, so I hope you’ll stay tuned.”
He led off the fifth inning of a 0-0 tie against the Lotte Giants in Ulsan on Feb. 2 with a double to left field with the bases loaded, setting the stage for a 4-2 victory. “It’s been hard to get a hit lately, but I was relieved to get one with the bases loaded, so I feel like I ended the week on a personal note,” Heo said.
With the win, Doosan improved its season record to 35-36-1 with a -1 win-loss margin, moving up one spot from sixth to fifth place. They are 1.5 games behind the third-place NC Dinos (36 W, 34 L, 1 T) and one game behind the fourth-place Lotte Giants (36 W, 35 L). The sixth-place Kiwoom Heroes (36 wins, 39 losses, and two ties) 안전놀이터 are also only one game back, but Heo vowed to lead his teammates to look up and move forward.
“It would be better if everyone played well, but even if it’s hard, I think we’ll have a good season if we work together. I’m so thankful for the pitchers right now. For the rest of the first half and the second half, I’ll try to get the hitters to work harder. Again, I want to thank the pitchers for throwing well right now.”