Kim felt a lot after the game against Japan, and he came up big the next day.
Kim Hwi-jip (Kiwoom Heroes) went 1-for-2 with a double, a home run, two RBIs and a walk in the No. 5 spot in the lineup against Chinese Taipei in the final game of the Kanext Asian Professional Baseball Championship 2023 (APBC) group stage at the Tokyo Dome in Tokyo, Japan, on April 18.
A graduate of Shinil High School, Kim was selected by Kiwoom with the ninth overall pick in the second round of the 2021 KBO First-Year Player Draft. Last season, he appeared in more than 100 games for the first time and batted .222. This season, he showed even more growth.
At the beginning of the season, he played mostly at third base in place of Song Sung-moon, who was sidelined with an injury. A hamstring injury in late June sidelined him for over a month, but upon his return, he reclaimed the starting shortstop spot, filling the void left by the released Edison Russell.
Kim played in 110 games this season, hitting .249 with 92 hits, eight home runs, 51 doubles, 46 RBIs, and a .712 OPS. Kiwoom believes that Kim can develop into a big infielder with good punch.
Kim earned his first cap in the APBC, and while he didn’t get a chance to bat in the first game against Australia on June 16, he made a strong impact in the second game against Japan.
He pinch-hit for Son Sung-bin (Lotte Giants) with the bases loaded in the top of the ninth inning. On the mound was Kazuto Takuchi, who has 33 saves this season and has allowed only two home runs. However, Kim Hui-jip hit a 141 km/h fastball from Takuchi for a two-run home run to left field. No more runs were scored and the team lost 1-2, but Kim lifted the spirits of the game.
After the game against Japan, Kim said in the mix zone, “I feel honored to be able to play on a stage like this. Even when I’m in the dugout, I feel so many things. There are so many players who are good at baseball, and I thought that the world I see is not the whole world.” “After this tournament, I think I will have to put in a lot of effort during the off-season. I’m better than I think I am, better than I can imagine. It’s going to take a lot of hard work.”
On the possibility of starting, he said, “The coach always makes the best judgment. There will be many occasions when I will go behind the plate, like today, to fit the role. If it goes well and I start, I think I have a role,” he said. “This time, I came out in the ninth inning and faced a left-hander, so I’m trying to prepare for that role.”
Kim’s commitment to his position earned him a starting spot against Chinese Taipei. Before the game, manager Ryu Jung-il said, “Kim Hui-jip, who hit a home run yesterday, will bat fifth.” The hope was that he would continue his good hitting form and break down the Taiwanese mound.
Kim Hwijip said, “We must win to meet Japan again. We have to win. I think I need to do a good job of playing my role in the elements.” “I think it’s more important to play my role in the elements than to try to do something,” he said.
Kim Hwijip came to the plate in the first inning after Noh Si-hwan singled to make it 1-0. It put runners on first and second. Taiwanese starter Wang Yen-chung’s delivery was shaky. Kim Hwijip drew a full-count walk to load the bases. However, Kim was unable to capitalize as Kim Hyung-jun hit a double.
Kim came to bat for the second time in the second inning with the bases loaded and the score 3-0. After missing out on a big inning in the first, it was an opportunity they couldn’t afford to miss, and Kim played the role perfectly. Zhang Guohao’s 145km/h four-seam fastball was driven into the abdomen. Kim didn’t miss the throw, but instead smashed it into the gap for a two-run double. It was her second straight game with an RBI.
In the fourth inning, Kim came up to bat with runners on second and third, but was stranded when a good pitch was hit straight to the shortstop. In the sixth inning, with runners on second and third, he was hit by a pitch to the body. Despite complaining of pain, he quickly signaled that he was fine and headed for first base, but Kim Hyung-jun’s fly ball to the center field fence was caught by Guo Tenshin, ending the South Korean offense.
Kim did not get another chance to bat. South Korea went on to win 6-1.
Kim’s two hits in the crucial game against Chinese Taipei helped South Korea reach the final. The experience of this tournament will only help her grow into a bigger player.