Bears manager discusses secret to success and shampoo theftAfter leading the Doosan Bears to its sixth Korean Series title just last Saturday, manager Kim Tae-hyung made history in the KBO.
Since Kim started managing the Bears in 2015, he’s led the team to the Korean Series five times. Of the five, the Bears have won titles in 2015, 2016 and this year, while they finished as runner-up in 2017 and 2018.
In Kim’s 717 regular season games as the Bears’ manager, he’s picked up 435 wins, five draws and 277 losses, recording an impressive 0.611 winning percentage. This is the highest winning percentage ever for a manager in the KBO.
Kim held a press conference at Jamsil Baseball Stadium on Wednesday. Below are edited excerpts.
Q. How do you feel to have finalized your contract?
A. It’s great. The next three years feels different from my first two contracts. As a manager, it’s an honorable thing to re-sign a contract.
What has changed throughout your five seasons as a manager?
I would say my views have gotten broader in every area. After I became a manager, I learned that there are a lot more things to do, other than just playing baseball.
How did you feel when you were given that offer?
There are talks about how this contract is the highest ever. But as to whether I care about that or not, it’s not really an issue. When a manager re-signs a contract with the club, we’re not in a situation to negotiate the price. I met with the CEO and talked about the club’s future from now on. Then, I heard about how the contract was determined and left the room.
You’ve reached the highest point as a manager, how do you feel?
Managers are all the same. I’ve met great players and a great team. In my first year as a manager, I was given a great present, [Jang Won-jun as] a free agent, and we won. That win allowed me to receive the best treatment and to become the best manager. I am lucky.
How are things looking with the signing of foreign players?
Medical checks are important. They don’t seem to be in good conditions, physically. I can’t say anything about it. Since mid-way through the season, I’ve heard a lot of stories that [Josh] Lindblom will be heading to a foreign league. Our three foreign players played really well but that doesn’t mean I can keep them just because I want to.
You’ve led the Bears to the Korean Series for five years. Were there any difficult points?
We’ve been advancing to the Korean Series [every year] and maintained our statistics toward the top of the standing. We always had to maintain the top spot, but if that became our sole focus it could have destroyed the team. We tried not to think about it, except for in 2016.
When we’re in a losing streak, I always think it’s a crucial situation. It’s important to accept it. It’s best to manage the team based on the team’s current situation.
The Bears captain Oh Jae-won also became a free agent this year. What did you tell him?
I told him to sign a contract quickly. This season, he was in a slump, but he still had to lead the team as captain. I really wasn’t sure if I should send him to the [Futures League] or not.
I told him not to think about anything and to stay with me, but he was probably disappointed. I didn’t let him play in a lot of games. After we won the Korean Series on Sunday, I shook his hand in the locker room. I hope he signs a contract quickly.
What is your goal for the next three years?
My personal goal is obviously to get good results, continuously. A manager is a position where the process doesn’t matter, only the results.
You said that if the Bears won the Korean Series, you’d buy them all gifts under 100,000 won. What are you going to buy them?
I’m thinking of getting shampoo. Our players keep stealing mine. Park Kun-woo’s been stealing my shampoo and when he finally got caught, he tried to blame Oh Jae-il. I’m thinking of buying one for each of the players.
As a manager, what does “playing our baseball” mean?
It’s not thinking about the media or the opponent. I always say not to give up until the very end, but in games that we throw away, we’re miserable.
Fans get annoyed by losses, but it’s not always good to lose by giving away less runs at the expense of our bullpen. It’s really hard to make the decision in the moment. It’s really important to not think about anything else and just play with the current players in the current situation.
What does the Doosan Bears mean to you, as a manager?
There are a lot of articles talking about how close the veterans and the younger players are, and I think that’s really true. There are probably other teams like that but there’s something special with Doosan. There are a lot of traditions passed down from veterans to younger players. That’s important.
Looking at this season, Doosan never gave up once. How did you feel about the team’s spirit?
Perseverance comes along only if you win. This year, we did very well. I would say perseverance is just the right word [for the team]. The veterans encouraged the younger players and, at times, they scolded them too. Whatever happens among the players, I never get involved in it. That’s what manager Kim In-sik did, too. When [captain] Oh Jae-won yells at the players during a game, I don’t say anything. That has to be done.
What was the most memorable moment in the past five years?
I would say the last game in the pennant race this year. When I won for the first time in 2015, I was fearless and I didn’t really know anything. The last game this year is the most memorable for me.
Which player is the most memorable to you?
Probably Yang Eui-ji [now of the NC Dinos]. It’s weird because I have a special affection toward catchers.
As soon as I was appointed as manager, I made it clear that Yang would be the starting catcher. The catcher is the center of the team. Yang joined the team as a rookie when I was a coach and when the scouting team asked me, I told them to pick him because he looked good. I was always very attached to him.
BY BAE JUNG-HYUNE [email@example.com]