The Korea Herald


KBO club Eagles hire Olympic gold medal-winning skipper Kim Kyung-moon as new manager

By Yonhap

Published : June 2, 2024 - 21:23

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Logo of Hanwha Eagles (Hanwha Eagles) Logo of Hanwha Eagles (Hanwha Eagles)

The Hanwha Eagles announced Sunday that Kim Kyung-moon, who led South Korea to the 2008 Olympic baseball gold medal, will be their new manager.

The Eagles signed Kim to a three-year deal worth 2 billion won ($1.4 million), including a signing bonus of 500 million won.

Kim's hiring comes six days after his predecessor, Choi Won-ho, resigned to take the fall for the team's struggles.

Kim, 65, will be managing in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) for the first time since June 2018.

Kim has amassed 896 wins in the KBO, the sixth-highest total in league history. He also managed in four Korean Series -- three with the Doosan Bears and one with the NC Dinos -- though he has yet to win a title.

Kim's career highlight came at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, where South Korea reeled off nine straight wins en route to its first baseball gold medal.

Kim returned to the national team helm for the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, but South Korea finished fourth then.

"It's a great honor to be manager of the Hanwha Eagles. This ball club has a lot of promising young players, now surrounded by veterans," Kim said in a statement released by the Eagles. "I will work together with my staff and players to deliver some great baseball to our fans."

The Eagles said Kim will have his introductory press conference Monday at their home stadium, Hanwha Life Eagles Park in Daejeon, some 140 kilometers south of Seoul, and then make his Eagles debut Tuesday against the KT Wiz.

Choi was hired in May last year, and he stepped down with two years left on his three-year deal. With the 51-year-old out, the Eagles were said to be pursuing a veteran figure to put in charge.

Enter Kim, who has managed in 1,700 regular-season games.

Choi quit after the Eagles had won two straight, and the team went on to win three more games in a row under interim manager Chung Kyoung-bae before losing the next three.

They are now in eighth place among 10 teams at 24-32-1 (wins-losses-ties). They are 4.5 games out of the fifth and final postseason position.

The Eagles reached the top of the standings at the end of March on the strength of a seven-game winning streak, but early-season good vibes have given way to all-too-familiar dismay.

Since April 1, however, they have the league's worst record at 17-31-1.

Between 2008 and 2023, the Eagles reached the postseason just once. They finished either last or second-to-last every year from 2019 to 2023.

The Eagles said they felt Kim was the perfect manager to help settle down the club amid the chaotic midseason changes and accomplish their goal of reaching the postseason.

"We are not too far behind the middle of the pack, and there are still a lot of games left," the Eagles said. "Manager Kim will do his best to take us to the postseason."

The Eagles added Kim will begin his tenure with the current coaching staff but the front office will be ready to make changes on the fly as necessary.

The Eagles entered the 2024 season under high expectations.

They had signed some well-established players in free agency in recent winters to augment a young foundation and made their biggest splash to date in February, when they reunited with former major league pitcher Ryu Hyun-jin.

Ryu, who first pitched for the Eagles from 2006 to 2012, ended his 11-year stint in the big leagues and signed an eight-year contract with his old KBO team.

But he has not lived up to considerable preseason hype yet, with a mediocre 4.50 ERA and a 3-4 record after 11 starts. He was scratched from his most recent scheduled start on Friday due to discomfort in his left elbow. (Yonhap)