Former Goyang manager a man without a team

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Former Goyang manager a man without a team

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Kim Sung-keun meets the press after the Goyang Wonders disbanded Oct. 11. [NEWSIS]

Even with the Korea Baseball Organization playoffs under way, Kim Sung-keun, who used to coach the now-defunct Goyang Wonders, is showing up as a hot search term on portal sites.

After the 72-year-old was fired by the SK Wyverns in 2011, he became manager of the Wonders, the country’s first independent baseball team. Every time a KBO team was struggling, rumors would spread that Kim was on the verge of returning.

He apparently had negotiations with teams, but did not go to any of them. It was known that the clubs considered Kim too demanding, though both the teams and Kim denied there were any talks.

As the season ended, the clubs that finished fifth through ninth - SK, Doosan, Lotte, KIA and Hanwha - either had managers whose contracts were set to expire or were considering replacing their skippers.

The Kia Tigers, who at one point seemed to be the most likely team for Kim, extended the contract of Manager Sun Dong-yeol for two years.

When Sun made his decision, fans of other teams wondered about Kim and searched his name on portal sites. This is why his name suddenly appeared as a hot search phrase, even hotter than LG, which won the first game of the first playoff series over the NC Dinos, and LG’s Choi Kyung-cheol, who hit a three-run homer.

Last summer, rumors were that Kim would be the next Tigers manager and was assembling his coaching staff. The rumors became more convincing when the Wonders were disbanded last month, and they didn’t subside even after Kim’s denials.

Earlier this month, Kim often attended Hyundai Motor social baseball games, and fans saw it as him preparing for a comeback.

The SK and Doosan jobs also are off the table. The Wyverns hired Kim Young-hee to succeed Lee Man-soo, whose contract expired at the end of the season, and Doosan fired manager Song Il-soo and hired SK batting coach Kim Tae-hyeong yesterday.

Admiration and expectations surrounding Kim are nothing short of a social phenomenon. Kim, who is called Yasin, which means “god of baseball,” was born in Japan and came to Korea on his own. He had a successful career as a pitcher and coach without any academic or regional connections. He is known for his enthusiasm, broad knowledge of the game and leading second-tier teams into the postseason. After taking the helm of SK in 2007, he won three Korean Series titles.

The Hanwha Eagles are letting go of Kim Eung-ryong, and rumors spread that a close aide of Kim Sung-keun bought an apartment in Daejeon.

Kim Si-jin resigned from the Lotte Giants, making it a possible destination for the Yasin.

Fans want Kim, but teams are hesitant because he demands full authority, saying the manager is the only one who should be in charge.

That position doesn’t jibe with the current trend of the front office taking care of long-term planning.

Whether or not Kim returns will be known soon, as teams expected to finalize their plans by the end of the month.


BY KIM SIK [bongmoon@joongang.co.kr]

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