Historic baseball team keeps it in the family

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Historic baseball team keeps it in the family

It’s one of the oldest baseball teams in the country and just months away from its centennial anniversary, Chung Ang High School has brought in an alumnus as its new manager.

The appointment is filled with nostalgia, not just because the new manager, Kim Seung-hoo, 55, is a former student but because the younger Kim is following in the footsteps of his legendary father, Kim Young-cho (1923-1981).

The newly appointed Kim, a graduate of Korea University as well as the Chung Ang school, is regarded as one of the best catchers in the history of Korean baseball.

He and pitcher Yoon Mong-ryong formed a dangerous duo for the Chung Ang squad during the mid-1970s, and during his university years, he signed to play for the Lotte squad of Nippon Professional Baseball, becoming only the second Korean player to secure a place with an NPB team, after Baek In-chun.

But due to a national policy that limited players from working abroad if they hadn’t yet done their mandatory military service, Kim’s deal with Lotte fell through.

He went onto play for Nong-hyup and retired from baseball in 1982. He has been running his own business since 1987.

His father, who served as the baseball team manager of Chung Ang High School in the 1950s, went on to become the national manager. He is best remembered for helping to shape the national team that beat Japan in the 1971 Asian Championships.

The elder Kim had fallen ill due to complications from diabetes in the run-up to the championships, but, despite missing its manager, Korea went onto win the gold over its arch rival Japan in the finals.

The players presented the winning trophy to Kim who was recuperating at the hospital, a scene emblazoned on the hearts of Korean sports fans.

When this reporter caught up with Kim, the son, at Chung Ang High School last week, the new manager was busy with preparations for next season.

“I learned a lot from watching my two sons play Little League baseball in the U.S. and helping out as a team instructor. It was a learning experience in which I realized American baseball had its flaws and that Korean baseball had its positive points,” Kim said.

As Kim sees it, U.S. baseball coaches overly compliment their young charges, but Kim thinks that players often don’t get to know their weaknesses unless someone points them out.

In comparison, Korean players are constantly scolded, a method that has its share of drawbacks, too. Kim thinks a middle ground between the two is the best way to approach developing young players.

As the rookie manager for Chung Ang’s baseball team in next year’s historic season, Kim has something else to worry about. The school is planning to implement a flexible curriculum devised by school officials starting next year, a change that will increase yearly tuition to 4.5 million won and 6 million won ($3,897 to $5,196).

This means that if the school wants to recruit 10 new baseball players, it will have to shell out upwards of 65 million won per year - it is safe to say players won’t readily join the school without financial assistance.

With this in mind, school officials have decided to support the baseball and football programs by providing each with five scholarships.

Not only that, Kim will be heading back to Washington D.C. soon to drum up support.

“I have plans to meet as many Chung Ang alumni as possible. It will be a sad day for Chung Ang and Korean baseball if a 100 year-old baseball program is left in ruins because it lacks 10 million won.”

By Kim Sung-won [jason@joongang.co.kr]

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