In professional baseball, the label “idol” is reserved for a select few players who have both solid skills and good looks. Historically, only Jeong Soo-bin (33-Dusan Bears) and Jeong Eun-won (23-Hanwha Eagles) have earned that honor. They captivated fans with their likable charms from their debut, and their steady performances have kept them at the top of their game.
The idol genealogy that started in a bedroom and went through a great war has finally reached Busan, the ‘ball city’. The new protagonist is Kim Min-seok (19-Lotte Giants), the ‘resigned idol’. Kim Min-seok, who can play both infield and outfield, was nicknamed the “Sajik Idol” when he made his professional debut this year and was loved by Lotte fans. He also became the No. 1 selling jersey this season thanks to his various charms.
When we met at Sajik Stadium on the 23rd, which drew a crowd of 15,047 people on a weekday, Kim said, “I don’t deserve that nickname. I haven’t shown as much as my two seniors yet,” he said with a shy smile.
Kim Min-seok, born in 2004, has been called the “second Lee Jung-hoo” since his days at Whimun High School. This is because of his batting ability, which resembles that of his high school senior. Professional scouts recognized this talent early on, and Lotte selected Kim with the third pick of the first round in last year’s KBO rookie draft. The only outfielder selected in the first round between picks 1-5. Kim said, “Actually, until the beginning of this year, my goal was to make the opening day roster. In my mind, I was worried about what to do in the second team, but I didn’t expect to play in the first team for so long,” he laughs.
Kim’s popularity was evident throughout Sajik Stadium on the day of the Nakdong River Derby against the NC Dinos. Many fans, young and old, wore jerseys with Kim’s name on them and cheered him on. Kim Sung-hyo, who manages the replica store, said, “We have jersey name marking kits for each player. However, Kim Min-seok’s jerseys sell out so fast that it’s hard to place new orders. On game days, they sell out before 7 p.m.,” he said.
Born in Bucheon and raised in Seoul, Kim has been enjoying life in Busan lately. Lotte has been on the rise since the beginning of the season, and Sajik Stadium has been packed with 20,000 fans every day. The number of fans following Kim has also increased. It’s not uncommon to see him on the street and recognize him. On his last birthday (May 9), he received a large bag of gifts.메이저놀이터
“So many people sent me gifts,” he said, “but the most touching was a frame made from several photos of me.
Kim said he usually watches batting videos of Korean, American, and Japanese hitters to find things to improve. What’s unique about the videos is the range. He watches the swings of both good and bad hitters. That way, he can see both the good and the bad. These efforts, coupled with his ability to learn quickly, led to the creation of the current Sajik idol.
Kim Min-seok, who is batting .262 (28-for-107) with one home run, 13 RBIs, 18 runs scored and six stolen bases in 33 games this season, is also categorized as one of the “rookie big three” this year. Along with first-round draft pick Kim Seo-hyun, a right-handed pitcher for Hanwha, and second-round pick Yoon Young-chul, a left-handed pitcher for the KIA Tigers, they were heralded as rookie sensations even before their debuts. They even played together briefly in the youth national team last year.
“Both (Kim) Seo-hyun and (Yoon) Young-chul have improved their pitches,” Kim said. They are not the same pitchers they were in high school. I thought they weren’t No. 1 and No. 2 for nothing,” he said, adding, “Of course, we want to win the rookie championship. But the bigger goal is to reach the postseason. I really want to enjoy fall baseball with Lotte fans at Sajik Stadium.”