Will the final fireworks of the 2024 season be possible?
Doosan Bears 'genius shortstop' Kim Jae-ho still played his second postseason batter in 2023. Kim Jae-ho, who did his part in the Doosan postseason game, which only played one game this year, is now at a crossroads of extending his career. Can a genius shortstop burn the final spark of the 2024 season?
Kim Jae-ho started as the second batter and shortstop in the first game of the wild card game against the NC Dinos at Changwon NC Park on the 19th and scored three points on two hits and one walk in four at-bats.
On the same day, Doosan faced NC starting pitcher Tanner Turley, who leads to performance (right wing), with Jung Soo-bin (center fielder), Kim Jae-ho (shortstop), Rojas (designated hitter), Yang Ji-ri (catcher), Yang Seok-hwan (1st baseman), Kang Seung-ho (second baseman), Kim In-tae (left wing), Huh Kyung-min (third baseman), and Cho Seung-ho stepping on the starting batting order. Kwak Bin was the starting pitcher for Doosan. Doosan manager Lee Seung-yeop explained about Kim Jae-ho's second shortstop deployment, "It was a big game, so I started veteran shortstop Kim Jae-ho, who has extensive experience as an infield commander."
With one out in the top of the first inning, Doosan reached base for the first time in the game with Kim Jae-ho's hit to the left infield at shortstop. Kim Jae-ho, who advanced to third base on Rojas' double, hit home when Yang Eui-ji hit a grounder in front of shortstop to score the go-ahead run.
Dusa scored an additional run in the top of the second inning with leadoff hitter Kang Seung-ho's hit to left and follow-up hitter Kim In-tae's timely double to right field. In the beginning of the third inning, Rojas' solo home run took the lead to 3-0, and it seemed like they had secured the victory.
However, Doosan allowed a 3-5 comeback in the bottom of the 4th inning when Seo Ho-cheol hit a bases-loaded home run and then Kim Hyeong-jun hit a back-to-back home run.
Doosan launched a counterattack and in the top of the 5th inning, leadoff hitter Kim Jae-ho received a walk after an 8-pitch full count. Then, after pinch hitter Kim Jae-hwan's left-field hit, Yang Eui-ji's 1-run, timely hit and runner Kim Jae-ho's run on second base gave them the chase. In the ensuing opportunity with one out and runners on second and third base, Kang Seung-ho's grounder to second base resulted in a 5-5 tie.
In the bottom of the 5th inning, Doosan made a defensive catch error when leadoff hitter Martin hit a fly ball to right field, and in a crisis with 2 outs and 3rd base, Doosan gave up another run thanks to a wild pitch by pitcher Lee Young-ha, who was replaced.
In the top of the 6th inning, Doosan created a scoring opportunity with Kim Jae-ho's clean sacrifice bunt after Soo-bin Su-bin's walk with one out and two bases on base. However, Doosan, who missed the opportunity to score due to the failure of the follow-up batter, continued their difficult situation when Seo Ho-cheol hit a timely double with 2 RBIs in the bottom of the 7th inning.
Doosan kept their hopes alive with Kim Jae-ho's hit to left after two outs in the top of the eighth inning. When follow-up hitter Kim Jae-hwan hit a heavy hit, Kim Jae-ho sprinted home, taking advantage of the opponent's center fielder's catching error.
However, Doosan completely lost the game by allowing 6 runs in the bottom of the 8th inning. Even the three runs scored in the top of the 9th inning were meaningless in the face of the wide score gap.
On this day, Jae-ho Kim played his part as the number 2 hitter with a multi-hit, 3-on-base, 3-run game. Although he was born in 1985 and is at an age that is approaching his death, Kim Jae-ho will still be Doosan's starting shortstop in fall baseball in 2023. While he showed a stable performance in defense, it was disappointing to see Kim Joo-won's rip-off hit in the bottom of the 8th inning go into his glove and miss. Still, the hit was not at the level of a complete ‘easy fly’.
Now, Jae-ho Kim's second free agent contract signed three years ago has expired at the end of this season. Kim Jae-ho, who is on the verge of extending his active career for the 2024 season, is known to be dreaming of extending his active career for one more season based on the veteran record he showed this season (batting average of 0.283/70 hits/3 home runs/29 RBI in 91 games played).
The club also plans to have an in-depth conversation about Kim Jae-ho's will to take on the final challenge. We must also consider the slower-than-expected growth of young fielders such as Lee Yu-chan, Ahn Jae-seok, and Park Gye-beom who are still challenging Kim Jae-ho's position. Jae-ho Kim is also a Bears living legend who is fully qualified to decide the final moments of his career. Shouldn't Kim Jae-ho's last game as an active player be at Jamsil Stadium, filled with Doosan fans, on a fall stage higher than this year's?