“I couldn’t care less about the Golden Gloves. I just want the team to win.”
Until last April, Park Chan-ho (28-KIA Tigers) was known as a “quick-footed” shortstop. From his debut in 2014 until last year, he had a career batting average of just .243. He led the league in stolen bases twice, in 2019 (39) and 2022 (42), but his batting average was just .260 in 2019 and .272 in 2022.
This year, Park has become a complete shortstop. Through six days, he’s batting .304 with 119 hits, 61 runs scored, 46 RBI, and 27 stolen bases. His batting average is well above his career high from last year. He is also still second in the KBO in stolen bases. Shin Min-jae (LG Twins-31) seemed to have the lead, but Park is catching up with four more in just three games in September.메이저놀이터
He’s becoming a top-three hitter, but back in April, he was batting just .181. He was met with more criticism and doubt than support. However, he picked up steam in May and has consistently batted over .300 every month except June. He’s been hitting particularly well since August, batting .383 in 26 games. His August Wins Above Replacement (WAR) of 1.86 (per Sports2eyes) also ranked him as the No. 1 shell-heavy player in the month.
The 2023 KBO League game between the KIA Tigers and KT Wiz was held on the afternoon of August 24 at KT Wiz Park in Suwon. KIA won the game 7-3. Socrates congratulates the victorious Park Chan-ho after the game.
“I haven’t been in the best shape lately,” Park Chan-ho said. My body has gotten a lot heavier during the season,” he said, adding, “The team atmosphere is so good, so I’m excited to play with them. I’m trying to see the ball as much as possible. The hitters behind me are unbelievably good, so I think I can score as long as I get on base, so I try to get on base as much as possible.” KIA, which has won nine straight games, relies on table-setters Park Chan-ho and Kim Do-young to get on base, and Na Sung-beom, Choi Hyung-woo, and Socrates Brito take advantage of their opportunities.
For Park Chan-ho, it’s a year when he must have felt the fans’ hearts more than anyone else. You might think he’s cold when he’s not doing well, but when he’s doing well, he gets more than enough support. Park knows this already. “Even when I had a bad April, I thought that if I did well, they would definitely support me,” he said. There were times when I was criticized for things other than baseball, and my wife was upset. But even then, I said, ‘Don’t be upset. Just wait a month or two. I’ll show you how I can change (fans’ minds),’ and it turned out to be true,” he laughed.
The 2023 KBO League game between the KIA Tigers and KT Wiz was held at KT Wiz Park in Suwon on the afternoon of Aug. 24. KIA’s Park Chan-ho stole second base against Choi Hyung-woo in the eighth inning.
His first triple-double, third career stolen base title, and first Golden Glove are all within reach. It’s a time when any professional athlete would be greedy for personal achievements, but Park shakes his head, saying he has no desire for awards. “Stealing bases is very physically demanding, and it’s not something you can do every time you try,” he says. That means no record attempts for titles. Instead, he says, “I’m just naturally trying to do my best every at-bat. There have been so many situations lately where the team needs me to steal. When I got on base, I had to steal, and that’s how the record accumulated.”
“I don’t have time to worry about that (individual awards),” he said. Park’s fall baseball experience is limited to one game in last year’s Wild Card Game. The last time KIA won the championship, in 2017, Chan-ho was serving in the military and was unable to attend the championship. This year, KIA is in fifth place (after six days), but the final outcome is still far from certain. They are only three games behind the second-place KT Wiz, and four games behind the sixth-place Doosan Bears. With a month to go, they could finish second or sixth.
The 2023 KBO League game between the KIA Tigers and KT Wiz was held at KT Wiz Park in Suwon on the afternoon of April 24. KIA won the game 7-3. Park Chan-ho and manager Kim Jong-guk high-five after the game.
“The team is not in a position to relax,” Park Chan-ho said, “We have to move up in the standings somehow. I just want the team to win. The original goal was third place, but with this momentum, second place will be difficult, but not impossible,” he said with mixed expectations.