KT Wiz poaches coach from Bears

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KT Wiz poaches coach from Bears


Lee Kang-chul

KT Wiz on Saturday plucked a coach from another team to be their new manager.

The Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) club signed Lee Kang-chul, currently the bench coach for the Doosan Bears, to a three-year deal worth 1.2 billion won ($1.1 million), a figure that includes a signing bonus of an undisclosed amount.

Lee will replace Kim Jin-wook, who stepped down Thursday after two seasons. The Wiz went 59-82-3 (wins-losses-ties) in 2018, their fourth KBO season. They had won 50, 53 and 52 games in the three previous seasons.

But first things first: The Bears have advanced directly to the Korean Series — the KBO’s version of the World Series — after posting the best regular season record. It begins on Nov. 4. Lee said he’d like to finish his Doosan coaching career with a championship next month before officially taking over the Wiz.

Lee said he was worried about accepting the new job and announcing his decision during the postseason, with the first round series now under way. He said the Wiz and the Bears agreed that making the announcement at this point would minimize the distraction for the Bears and allow them to concentrate on the Korean Series.

“I’d like to thank Kim Jin-wook for his leadership over the past two years,” Lee said in a statement released by the Wiz. “I’ll try my best to help this ball club take the next step.”

Lee was a star submarine pitcher for 16 seasons, starting in 1989, for the Haitai (now Kia) Tigers. He won 10 or more games in 10 consecutive seasons from 1989 to 1998 and was voted the Korean Series MVP in 1996.

He has served as pitching coach for the Tigers and bench coach for the Nexen Heroes. He was the Bears’ minor league manager in 2017 before taking over as bench coach in 2018.

The Wiz are the third club to make a managerial change since the end of the regular season last Sunday, joining the NC Dinos and the Lotte Giants, two other non-playoff teams.

One playoff-bound club will have a new skipper next year, too. Trey Hillman, American manager for the SK Wvyerns, announced just before the regular season finale that he will return to the U.S. next year to take care of his ailing parents.

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