When it comes to intelligence, he was a natural. ‘Free Agent Mia’ Kook Hae-sung, 34, is finally a professional athlete again after nearly a year and a half of hardship.
The Lotte Giants announced the signing of outfielder Kook Hae-sung on April 22. Lotte said, “Kook Hae-sung, who joined Doosan as a developmental player in 2008, made his first-team debut in 2012 and batted .214 with a 2.33 RBI in eight seasons. As a switch-hitter who can produce long balls, the club believes he will help strengthen the outfield depth and utilize pinch-hitting resources,” the team said in a statement.
When contacted by OSEN after signing, Kook Hae-sung said, “I’m starting over. I’m not excited, but I’m happy. Now that I’m in a professional team, I have to work hard to prepare again and show a good performance. I will do my best to adapt to the new team and work hard,” he said of joining Lotte.
After leaving Incheon High School and joining Doosan in 2008, Kook Hae-sung was labeled as an ‘unfulfilled promise’. He was expected to be a switch-hitter with one-hit power, but various injuries to his elbows, ankles, knees, and fingers prevented him from reaching his potential. He made his first team debut in 2012, and his career numbers are 2-for-33 with 99 runs, 11 home runs, and 66 RBIs in 214 games. He was eligible for free agency in the Futures League after the 2021 season, but was unable to find a team and spent a year and a half with the independent Seongnam MacPies looking for a second chance.
That’s when Lotte came to his rescue. “They originally contacted me last winter, but I told them that I would get back to them when I was fit,” he said. “On the 20th, I went to Sajik Stadium to work out with Lotte players, and things went well, so I signed a contract for the lowest annual salary right away. They looked at me favorably even though I only trained for one day,” he said.
As for what the past year and a half has been like for Kook Hae-sung, he says, “It’s been a new experience. I saw that there are young players here who are also preparing hard, and I trained with them while feeling a lot of things. It was fun and gave me good energy.” “Above all, coach Shin Shin-sik gave me so much consideration. I’m grateful. The batting coach Kim Hyung-seok and pitching coach Lee Hee-sung were also very considerate. I am very grateful to them for helping me focus on my training.”
In his mid-30s, Kook spent a lot of time playing for independent teams. “There was never a moment when I wanted to give up baseball,” he laughs, “I’ve always been a silent sportsman since my Doosan days. I did the same thing here. I found the training that I did in the pros and did it, and I also had time for personal time. Of course, not seeing good balls and good players was a minus, but I took care of my body. It wasn’t hard,” he explained.
Adjusting to his new home at Lotte shouldn’t be a problem. He will have teammates from his time at Doosan and passionate Busan fans. “I was familiar with the passion of Lotte fans, but on Saturday, I saw with my own eyes that they love baseball so much. I was moved by their passionate support. I promised to work hard to prepare and show them a good performance so that we can live up to their passion and love.”
“Luckily, I know so many people at Lotte. There are Ahn Kwon-soo, Hyun Do-hoon, Yoon Myung-joon, and many other players who I was close to during my time with Doosan. I think it will be easier to adapt than I thought.”
Kook Hae-sung also thanked the Doosan fans for their support for more than a decade. “I’m very sorry to leave the team after receiving so much love,” he said. I should have done better, but I think I didn’t satisfy them much.” “The Doosan fans are also very passionate, and I will keep that in mind. I hope to be able to greet you in person at the ballpark later. Once again, I am very grateful,” he said from the bottom of his heart.
Kook Hae-sung will join Lotte’s second team camp, Gimhae Sangdong, on the 23rd. He will help the first team after gaining experience in the Futures League 스포츠토토.