Back home after two seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB), SSG Landers pitcher Kim Kwang-hyun just wants to have fun.
Pitching pro ball for 15 years has apparently provided the 33-year-old with a fresh perspective on his career. Make no mistake: Kim still takes his craft seriously, with his signature, easy smile often masking his intensity and competitive streak just beneath the surface. It's just that he wants to start smelling the roses more often.
"I think baseball is supposed to be fun. I hope it can be that way for players and also for fans who come watch the games," Kim said Tuesday, after making his first Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) preseason appearance since being reunited with the Landers on March 8. Kim spent the past two seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals and rejoined the Incheon-based franchise as a free agent.
"Being a baseball player is not really a job," Kim added. "I hope younger players realize it and start enjoying themselves more."
Kim was speaking moments after throwing two innings in his spring debut at Incheon SSG Landers Field in Incheon, 40 kilometers west of Seoul. He gave up a home run but struck out four while throwing 27 pitches, 19 for strikes.
Kim also pitched with the pace of someone who couldn't get out of the office fast enough on a Friday afternoon.
Already a highly-efficient and fast pitcher, Kim wasted so little time between pitches that the TV production team working the game could barely squeeze in instant replays.
Asked if he was consciously trying to work fast to throw hitters off balance, Kim smiled and quipped, "I wanted to send you guys (reporters) home early."
"People have told me they think I came back from the MLB an even faster worker," Kim added. "Every time I hear that, I feel the pressure to speed things up even more."
It turned out Kim is having just as much fun in the dugout during games when he is not pitching.
In a pregame media conference earlier Tuesday, SSG manager Kim Won-hyong said his dugout had become more raucous since Kim Kwang-hyun joined the team. The skipper didn't just get his ace back. He might have also received his loudest dugout cheerleader -- not that he minded.
"There are some guys on the team who are trying to keep things light and fun, and Kwang-hyun has been pretty loud," Kim Won-hyong said with a smile. "And it's great to see starting pitchers cheer on their teammates when they are not pitching." (Yonhap)