Woo Kang-hoon, 21, has been praising Kim Tae-hyung since his days as a commentator, and now he’s taking over as manager of the same team. Lotte Giants’ ‘high-speed sidearm’ Woo Kang-hoon (21) is looking forward to meeting new manager Kim Tae-hyung (56).

Woo Kang-hoon met with Star News at Sangdong Baseball Stadium in Gimhae, Gyeongnam, where Lotte’s final training is being held on the 28th and said, “I received a lot of calls from people saying, ‘The manager who praised me a lot during commentary is coming, so he will do a good job.’ I wondered if he would recognize me,” he smiled.

For most baseball fans, Woo Kang-hoon is an unfamiliar name. A graduate of Hopedae Choe, Masongjoong, and Yatapgo, Woo was selected by Lotte in the fifth round of the 2021 KBO Rookie Draft. At the time, Lotte had swept up a number of prospects, including catcher Son Sung-bin (first round pick), pitcher Kim Jin-wook, and infielder Na Seung-yeop (second round pick), and Woo was part of the “Golden Draft. However, before he even entered the professional ranks, Woo underwent Tommy John surgery (elbow ligament splicing), and in late 2021, he joined his teammate Hong Min-ki, 22, in the Army for active duty.

After being discharged from the military in May, Woo immediately joined the squad and made 16 appearances for the second team, posting a 4.38 ERA in three appearances with no losses. After the conclusion of the Futures League schedule, Lotte converted Woo from a developmental player to a full-time player and enrolled him in the first team ahead of the last four games. He made his first-team debut against Sasik LG on the fifth, pitching two perfect innings. His fastball reached a whopping 151 kilometers per hour, which is fast for a side arm.

Kim, who was a commentator for SBS Sports at the time, was in awe of Woo’s pitching. “The ball itself can give a passing grade in the first team,” he said, adding, “He’s flexible and has a good arm swing. In particular, he praised a body-high fastball that induced a false swing, saying, “If it goes in like that, it won’t be easy to hit Woo’s pitches.”

Kim continued to speak highly of Woo Kang-hoon, and on the 20th of this month, he was appointed as the 21st manager of Lotte. With 645 career wins and three Korean Series titles with the Doosan Bears, Kim’s arrival had the Lotte players excited. 안전놀이터

“He didn’t say anything when we shook hands at the meeting, but he seemed to have a good impression. I felt like he was very passionate,” Kim said of his first impression. After watching Woo pitch out of the bullpen, Kim said he didn’t say much, but simply praised him for throwing well.

“I didn’t know he was going to be my coach (during my debut), but I was grateful for all the nice things he said at the time. I guess I didn’t expect much,” he said, adding, “Now that you’re coming as a coach, I think I’ll have to do better than I did then.” He also said, “I wondered if he would recognize me from then.”

Earlier, Woo Kang-hoon had a meeting with Kim on the 26th of this month, where he tried to keep his new coach’s orders. At the time, Kim said, “You say you’re doing weight training in the winter to build your body, but you can’t build your body with weight training. You have to build your body by playing baseball,” Kim told the young players. “I think I need to build my body as much as possible so that my fastball doesn’t drop, and I need to keep throwing the ball from December,” said Woo Kang-hoon, “so that I can join the spring training in February and throw the ball well.”

Reflecting on the season, Woo summarized that it was a “meaningful year.” He expressed his gratitude by saying, “I think the club gave me a lot of opportunities, and I felt like I had to give back even more.”

Now, Woo has a new goal for next year. He wants to attend a spring training camp abroad. Woo hasn’t been to an overseas camp since joining the team in 2021. In his first season, the camp was held at Sajik Baseball Stadium in Busan due to COVID-19, and since then, he hasn’t had the opportunity due to his military service. “My goal is to go to a camp after I get out of the military. I really want to go to a first-team camp, and I hope I can,” he said.