Jamsil Baseball Stadium on May 27, 2018, during a game between the Doosan Bears and Samsung Lions. In the bottom of the fourth inning, Doosan’s second baseman fell to the ground in an awkward position when his leg was twisted during a running play. He held his left knee and complained of tremendous pain, and Doosan’s coach and trainer quickly called for a stretcher after checking his condition. The player then struggled to his feet and shouted “I can do it” and “I can do it” to his coach and trainer.
Doosan outfielder Kook Hae-sung injured his knee during the outfield play. He was rushed to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee and underwent surgery, putting him out for the season. This meant that he was no longer able to play. But Kook was still hitting well, batting .333 in 14 games before being carted off on a stretcher, and was determined to play through the torn ACL.
Fast-forward five years, and after not re-signing with Doosan after the 2021 season, Kook continued to play in the independent leagues. Although he was still active in the independent league, most baseball fans thought he was retired as he was approaching his mid-30s. However, on July 22, Kook Hae-sung returned to the KBO and returned to the professional ranks. The Lotte Giants signed him to strengthen their outfield.
Hwang Sung-bin and Rex’s injuries were painful for Lotte
Traffic in the outfield was a big concern for Lotte heading into the season. This is because Son As-seop (NC Dinos) retired to Lee Dae-ho, and left-handed prospect Go Seung-min, who showed promise last year by starting 62 games in right field, was converted to first base from this year. In addition, Jeon Jun-woo, who has been a fixture in Lotte’s outfield for more than a decade, switching between center field and left field, had been planning to play more as a designated hitter and less as a full-time outfielder this year due to physical issues.
But manager Larry Sutton had a plan. He built a new outfield centered around foreign-born Jack Rex, who hit .330 in 56 games last year, along with Hwang Sung-bin “Hwang Borgini” Hwang, who is known for his quick feet and aggressive play, and Ahn Kwon-soo, a Korean-American outfielder who was released by Doosan. In fact, Lotte’s new outfield this season has been a big part of the team’s early-season surge, as they’ve been able to put together some solid performances.
However, even the best players are useless if they can’t stay healthy on the field. Hwang Sung-bin, who was batting .353 with three home runs, eight RBIs and three stolen bases in 11 games to open the season, was carted off in an ambulance on April 28 after injuring his ankle while stealing a base against the Kiwoom Heroes. Fortunately, he is expected to return to action in June at the earliest, but the injury was a setback for Hwang, who emerged as Lotte’s new star after a steep rise in the early part of the season.
On the 18th, Rex, a foreign player who was hitting .261 with two home runs, 20 RBIs, and three game-winning hits this season, went down with an injury. Rex suffered a partial tear in his knee tendon and was diagnosed as not being too severe and could return as early as May. However, Lotte’s batting lineup will be without Rex, who has the most RBIs on the team.
Fortunately, Lotte has been able to fill the void with rookie Kim Min-seok, the third overall pick, who is batting .333 with one home run, seven RBIs, nine runs scored, and four doubles in 13 games in May, and Ko Seung-min, who has also been playing in the outfield. But with more than 100 games left in the season, Lotte needed the presence of a veteran outfielder to ensure a solid outfield in the long run. That’s why Lotte decided to sign Kook Hae-sung, who was playing in the independent league during the season.
The ‘big switch-hitter’ gets his chance in Busan
Born in Gunsan, Jeollabuk-do, and attending middle and high school in Incheon, Kook Hae-sung was a big switch-hitting prospect with an imposing physique of 183 centimeters and 90 kilograms during his high school days at Incheon High School, attracting attention from both Korean and major league clubs. In fact, he was close to signing with the Chicago Cubs, but his contract was canceled due to an elbow injury. Kook Hae-sung, who was not selected in the rookie draft due to his major league potential, began his professional career with Doosan as a developmental player.
At the time, however, Doosan’s outfield was filled with established seniors like Kim Hyun-soo (LG Twins), Lee Jong-wook (NC operations and infield coach), Min Byung-heon, Lim Jae-chul, and a year later, Jung Soo-bin and Park Geon-woo (NC). It was only in 2016, the same season that Kim Hyun-soo reached the major leagues, that Kook Hae-sung got his chance in the first team. In 2016, Kook played 58 games as a backup outfielder for Doosan, batting .278 with four home runs, 24 RBIs, and 28 runs scored, helping the team win their second straight Korean Series.메이저사이트
However, a season-ending knee injury in 2018, when he was supposed to have earned a spot in the first team, derailed his upward trajectory and he failed to impress in the first team, finishing with three home runs and 17 RBIs in 2020. Kook became a free agent along with Jeon Yoo-soo and Kang Dong-yeon after the 2021 season, but he was unable to find a team and was eventually released by Doosan in March 2022. However, Kook continued to play for the Seongnam MacPies in the independent league and recently passed a tryout and signed with Lotte.
In fact, even at Doosan, Kook Hae-sung was more accustomed to the second team than the first, as 58 games (2016) was his most in a season. Even if Lotte’s outfield is currently riddled with injuries, it’s not easy for Kook Hae-sung, who hasn’t even had a spring training, to play at a starter’s level in the outfield this season as Lotte aims for fall baseball and beyond. Lotte will only expect him to be a pinch-hitter or backup outfielder, not someone who can suddenly change the team’s fortunes.
Lotte acquired a whopping nine players (six pitchers and three outfielders) on the waiver wire before this season. At the time, the general consensus was that it was an insignificant signing, but Kim Sang-soo, Pil Seung-jo, and Ahn Kwon-soo are now the mainstays in the outfield. Five years ago, a big knee injury