KIA Tigers outfielder Ko Jong-wook is aiming for his first triple-digit batting average in four years. Unlike last year, Go Jong-wook is competing as a starter instead of a backup, and his performance has created a stir in the KIA outfield this season.

Go has appeared in 41 games this season, batting .319 with 37 hits, one home run, seven RBIs, a .336 on-base percentage, and a .414 slugging percentage. Despite the lack of regular-season at-bats, he’s on pace to break the triple digits for the first time since his 2019 season with the SK Wyverns (.323).

After serving primarily as a pinch-hitter in the early stages of the season, Ko Jong-wook has been gradually increasing his starting role since mid-April. KIA manager Kim Jong-kook said, “Jong-wook has the ability to hit hard and run fast. He is doing everything we expect from a batsman. It’s a tough time for him physically, but he’s doing his part,” he said.

Jong-wook Ko, on the other hand, is not at all happy with his batting stats. His RBIs (7) and batting average in scoring position (0.281/32/9) are a bit disappointing.

In a recent interview with MK Sports, Ko Jong-wook said, “It may be personal greed, but I feel that my overall batting statistics have not met my expectations. It’s not easy to manage my physical fitness now that I’m starting as a defender rather than a substitute. However, I can improve my batting condition by hitting more aggressively as long as I feel comfortable. I will be satisfied if I can improve my batting average and run-scoring percentage,” he smiled.

When he’s in good hitting form, Koh is able to produce line drives to the pitcher. He’s also trying to make sure that he’s swinging aggressively from the start to create at-bats that he’s happy with.

“Actually, my line drive production to the pitcher hasn’t been as good as I expected at the beginning of the season. I need to work on reducing my strikeouts and increasing the percentage of balls in play. However, I will not hesitate to take advantage of the pitcher’s mistakes and continue to hit aggressively from the first pitch as per my style.”

Year after year, Koh’s Achilles heel has been his shaky outfield defense. However, at the beginning of this season, he showed quite stable defense despite his frequent outfield starts.

Coach Kim Jong-kook said, “In fact, he is an outfielder who catches everything because his posture is unstable (laughs). We don’t expect a wide range of defense from him, but we send him out to play with more expectations for his batting than his defense.”

“Honestly, I don’t think I’m good at defense, but I don’t think I’m bad at it either. I think it’s just a perception because I have a few high impact plays 안전놀이터. This season, I’ve been playing more outfield defense, so my batting judgment and stance are definitely more comfortable than before. I don’t think I’m a great outfielder, but I’m an average outfielder. I hope the outside world sees me that way,” he said.

The competition within the KIA outfield is very tight. Go Jong-wook, Lee Chang-jin, Lee Woo-sung, Kim Ho-ryung, Kim Seok-hwan, and Choi Hyung-woo are among the outfielders, and if Choi Won-jun, who will soon be discharged from the Commercial Baseball Team, and Na Sung-beom, who is rehabbing from a calf injury, return, it will be difficult to choose who to leave out.

“Our outfielders are really good,” said Ko Jong-wook. If you can’t play in the first team, you’re bound to be pushed back. I don’t care about that competition, I just focus on the advantages I can show. Eventually, there comes a time when everyone loses fitness or doesn’t feel like hitting. As long as I do my best and maintain my pace, I think I can compete. If we compete with each other in good faith, there will definitely be a synergy effect.”

“During last year’s season, I adapted to KIA and Gwangju a lot, and I realized again that my teammates are really nice and the passion of KIA fans is huge. Sometimes, when I foul out and look at the stands with KIA fans, I am overwhelmed. For those fans, I want to start the fall baseball season in a higher position than last year, and for me personally, I will get more starting opportunities to get hits and RBIs to help the team win.”

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