Quiet. be kind be gentle Sincere. This is an impression of director Kang In-kwon (51), who is in charge of the so-called NC Dinos 3rd command tower.
However, behind a gentle smile lies a strong character. Sometimes it’s scary when you’re angry like a fire. Flexible yet restrained leadership. It is close to the ‘Oeyunaegang 먹튀검증‘ type. In the baseball world, he has been evaluated as a person to be coached someday.
The Dinosaur Corps was founded in 2012 and played 10 seasons in the KBO League from 2013 to 2022. If it’s short, it’s short, if it’s long, it’s a long time of 10 years. He experienced both the ups and downs and the joys and sorrows.
NC, preparing for a new decade of great change, leaves for Arizona on the 29th for spring camp. What kind of new picture is director Kang In-kwon of the ‘novice command tower’ drawing? He met in the director’s office at NC Park in Changwon.
◆ ‘Not a beginner’
coach Although he is a beginner coach, he is the ‘number 3’ among domestic coaches in the KBO League based on his age. Above, there are only kt coach Lee Kang-cheol (born in 1966) and LG coach Yeom Gyeong-yeop (born in 1968). Even including the foreign director Lotte Larry Sutton (born in 1970), it is ‘Number 4’. The age of middle age. He became a middle-aged man in his early 50s with gray hair.
He already had command tower experience as an acting manager. In 2021, when coach Lee Dong-wook voluntarily suspended business trips during the team’s violation of the Corona 19 quarantine rules, he took on 10 games as an acting coach, and since the resignation of coach Lee Dong-wook on May 11 last year, he has commanded as many as 111 teams as an acting coach. This is the second most-played acting manager record in KBO history, following 114 games by former Hanwha Eagles acting manager Choi Won-ho (now Futures manager) in 2020.
– I can’t say that I’m a complete novice director because I’ve experienced acting as an acting manager.
“Just as there is a difference between a coach and an acting manager, it seems that an acting manager and an official manager are different. Last year, I think I was hectic. Acting manager was different. I think I had a really big experience playing 111 games.”
– I think this year when you become a full-time director will be different.
“It will probably be. Last year, as acting manager, it is true that I operated the team thinking that it was a normalization process to find the players’ mindset or the old NC Dinos baseball. After winning the combined championship in 2020, we were sluggish for two years. There was also the pain of the team. Now, I think that pain has been healed to some extent. This year is the time to upgrade to a newer NC Dinos baseball. Personally, based on my past experience, I think I will play better baseball than last year, by myself. I am thinking like that.”
– Do you have a relationship with Changwon?
“After retirement, I started coaching at Doosan in 2007, and came as a coach when NC Dinos was founded in 2012 and formed a relationship with Changwon. I came with coach Kim Kyung-moon as the founding director. I went to Hanwha in 2018 and came to NC again in 2020. I’ve been a leader for 17 years, and I’ve been here for 7 years, so I’m familiar with Changwon now.”
– The people of Changwon will recognize you a lot now.
“There are a lot of people who support me by saying, ‘Please take good care of the NC Dinos’ when I run into them at restaurants or on the street. There have been many people who like baseball in Masan and Changwon since before. We have to live up to those expectations.”
– You must have been busy preparing for spring camp in January.
“These are things I have been doing while working as a coach and head coach. There is no major difficulty. However, now that I am in a position where I have to make decisions and take responsibility, I think I need to think more carefully. I tried to make my friends understand something as a coach. Through conversation, I explained why I couldn’t go and what I had to stay for training. I met the players, talked and interviewed them, and spent time like that. -It
looks like he’s trying to communicate a lot . “
I think the team won’t do well with the director’s own thoughts. I think it is necessary to listen to what thoughts each person has through more conversations and communication with the players and coaches. Leading the team with strong charisma can also be an advantage. However, young people these days are a generation that has a lot of questions if they do not understand themselves. If possible, I try to explain as much as possible within the lines that the players can understand and understand.”
– Do you talk more with the players than when you were the head coach?
“Some parts are like that, and some parts are not. When I was the head coach, I kept talking and communicating only lightly, but when I became a manager, it was very difficult for the players to come to this position (director’s office). I wanted to change that culture a bit, so I asked the players to come anytime. I have to create that kind of atmosphere. Obviously, if the coach doesn’t do it first, I don’t think the player will come first.”
– The club also highly evaluated leadership and communication as the reason for appointing a manager.
“I think communication is the process of minimizing misunderstandings as much as possible. My thoughts are important, but the opinions of many people are also important. Since last year’s finish camp, when I listened to other people’s stories, they said many things that I hadn’t thought of. The players also After hesitating, they are talking honestly little by little. The same goes for coaches and front desks. I feel that a culture that was a little stiff is changing into a culture of communication, so I think we should continue this culture as steadily as possible.”
– Even so, it wouldn’t be easy to run a team while listening to every player’s complaints and making them understand.
“That’s right. I have to make decisions and be responsible for it. I need to listen to what is to be heard and explain exactly that it is not. It is to play better baseball. When I am poisoned, I must be poisoned.”
If it was the ‘Leadership 1.0’ era where NC’s first head coach Kim Gyeong-moon led the team in one direction based on strong charisma, the second coach Lee Dong-wook opened the ‘Leadership 2.0’ era of interaction based on data, and in 2020 He led the team to its first combined championship.
Director Kang In-kwon, the third-generation coach, is another type. We are preparing for the era of ‘Leadership 3.0’ in which players and coaches become the owners. It means that baseball is not owned by the manager. It goes beyond two-way communication and depicts baseball in which players and coaches become owners. “
◆ 2022 and 2023 NC Dinos
– Even in 2020, it was a winning team, but it was pushed to the bottom for the next two years.
“What’s unfortunate is that NC should have won in 2020 and established itself as a consistently strong team, but it didn’t. In the meantime, something unfortunate happened to the players, and the atmosphere became chaotic, so the afterglow of the championship could not be continued. The tower collapsed in an instant. Seeing it from the outside, you might say that you won the championship by luck because it was shiny and fell to the bottom. That’s a pity.”
– Calmly, is NC currently a strong team? Is it a drug team? Or what position is the team in?
“I can’t see it as a strong team, but I don’t think it’s a weak team. Overall, each team’s ability has strengthened. Looking at the teams that were at the bottom last year, Hanwha and Lotte also strengthened their strength a lot. We are currently challenging for the championship. It would be difficult to say that it is a team that can do it, but if the existing players go with one team spirit, I think it will not be a team that will fall behind. How about looking at it as a dark horse (laughs).”
– There were a lot of FA outflows, including Yang Eui-ji. If you look at it objectively, the power wouldn’t have been weak.
“From the outside, you might see it as weak. However, the team reinforced the players well. Looking at it calmly, SSG LG Kiwoom kt is a strong team up to this point. It may not be as good as these teams in terms of objective power, but if you meet NC, you will be unconditional. Isn’t it enough to think it’s a team to win. I compare other teams, but I won’t count other teams as a team to accumulate wins like last year’s Hanwha. .I don’t think there’s any team that’s easy this year.”
– Last year, you took over as acting coach, and especially in the second half, you had the fewest turnaround losses (10 losses) among the 10 clubs. Looking at the games leading up to the 5th inning, it was second with 26 wins, 3 losses and 1 draw, following LG (27 wins and 3 losses).
“Last year, the bullpen pitchers performed very well. Won Jong-hyeon, Lim Jeong-ho, Kim Si-hoon, Kim Young-kyu, and closer Lee Yong-chan. I thought stabilizing the bullpen was important, so I turned Kim Si-hoon, who played as a starter while acting manager, into a setup man for the 8th inning. Selection is important, but if there are many games where you lose a turnaround at the end of the game, it feels like 3 losses instead of 1. Kim Young-gyu also pitched a lot of innings last year (66 innings in 72 matches), but he consistently played his part. Won Jong-hyun went to another team (Kiwoom) as a free agent, but he put it right after the start, not the 8th inning and finish. In doing so, the bullpen was stabilized and I think there were a few come-from-behind losses.”
– As mentioned earlier, Won Jong-hyun has been doing a great job in the NC Dinos bullpen, but he has been out of power.
“I’m thinking of several players, but once Shim Chang-min has recovered from his injury and is in a state where he can pitch normally. If he finds his former self and recovers his pitch, I expect Shim Chang-min, who is the same sidearm type, to play the role of Won Jong-hyun. There is. And again, if there is a player who falls out of the starting lineup, I am thinking of strengthening the bullpen side by selecting one.”
– Last year, NC had relatively few starting wins.
“Yes. Last year, our team won 67 wins, but the number of starting wins was 40, which was not that many. Chang-mo Koo won 11 wins, Drew Luchinski won 10 wins, and the other two foreign players won 4 wins (Wes Parsons 1 win + Matt More) Modi won 3).”
– Changing all three foreign players is also a variable. Do you expect Eric Pedi, who signed first, to play the ace role that Luchinski left out, or are you counting on the new pitcher to be an ace?
“First of all, looking at his career (six years in the major leagues), Peddy should be the first starter. He is a player who has consistently pitched as a starter in the big leagues. Last year, he also worked as a full-time starter and is a proven player, so we are looking forward to it.”
– Gu Chang-mo is the key, but he signed a long-term contract (up to 13.2 billion won over 7 years).
“I don’t intend to overdo it as much as possible for Chang-mo Koo. I need to fly through the season in good health. Moreover, I was selected for the WBC (World Baseball Classic) national team and started preparing early. I will check my physical condition when I return from the WBC game. Whether it’s the innings or the number of starts, I think I need to make a decision precisely at that time.”
– Should we manage the number of pitches per game this year as well?
“Last year, we set the number of pitches within 100 per game and managed everything. This year, he is a player who needs to be managed to some extent. , I am thinking about whether I should give a break when the number of innings is full.
– I mean he will manage to some extent.
“In the past, Chang-mo Koo had injuries after going over 70 and 80 innings. So last year, he took a break. Although his physical condition has returned perfectly, he has to keep managing it because he does not know what variables will arise. Chang-mo Koo is only for the NC Dinos He is not a limited player. I think there is a high possibility that he will be selected for the Asian Games as well, so he needs some management.”
– Are only two foreign pitchers and Koo Chang-mo confirmed as starting pitchers?
“Yes. We will compete at the camp for the remaining 4th and 5th starting positions. Currently, Shin Min-hyuk, Song Myeong-ki, Choi Sung-young and Lee Jae-hak will compete. If we expand the range, Jeong Gu-beom, who has recovered from his injury, will also be taken to the Arizona camp. Jung Gu-bum In the long run, we plan to focus on starting classes, considering it as a starting resource rather than a bullpen. In September, there will be Asian Games, so there will be a gap between selection and bullpen. One player who is eliminated from the selection competition will go to the bullpen. Starting and bullpen It seems necessary to find a swing man who will come and go.”
– Among the rookie-level players, who should we keep an eye on?
“Among rookies, I look at Shin Young-woo and Lee Jun-ho. Lee Jun-ho has a sense of stability in pitching. Shin Young-woo is a promising prospect with a ball speed of 150 km, good pitch and good curve-breaking. It can be established as a force more quickly.”
-Jason Martin, the new foreign hitter, is said to be able to play any position in the outfield. What are his expectations?
“Martin is originally a left fielder. I am worried because I see Park Gun-woo overloading his body while watching center field. Didn’t you see the right fielder? It’s not easy to adapt to the outfield once you change positions. I only checked Martin’s video, but I think I’ll have to watch him at camp and discuss with the coaches before deciding on his position.”
-If Park Kun-woo is in normal physical condition, wouldn’t it be possible for him to look at the center fielder and use Martin as the left fielder?
“I’m thinking about it from various angles. Should I put Martin in left field and put young players in center field? I’m thinking about this. Kim Seong-wook also returned from military service, and Han Seok-hyun, who became a futures free agent from LG, was also brought in.”
◆ Yang Eui-ji’s departure In the
KBO league, a former catcher command tower dominated. The only position that overlooks the ground as a whole since his days as a player. It is a position where you have to read the game as a whole, analyze the flow, and respond accordingly. As much as that, catcher-turned-directors were in the limelight.
However, coach Kang In-kwon is the only catcher out of 10 clubs this season. As Doosan coach Kim Tae-hyeong, who had been in his position as the head coach until last year, put down the baton, Kang, who was a former catcher, continued the legacy of the command tower.
Manager Kang In-kwon shone as a defensive catcher rather than a bat during his active career. He was the catcher who led the no-hitter twice. During his time at Hanwha, he led Jeong Min-cheol in 1997 and Song Jin-woo in 2000, completing two no-hit no-runs that were said to be difficult. There are only three catchers who have led two no-hitters in history: In-Kwon Kang, Seung-Ahn Yoo (Bangsuwon Haitai in 1984, Dong-Seok Lee in 1988), and Eui-Ji Yang (Maya Doosan Yuneskey in 2015, Michael Bowden in 2016). Do.
Director Kang also raised many promising players as a battery coach. In particular, I have the experience of growing Yang Eui-ji, Choi Jae-hoon, and Park Se-hyuk during my time at Doosan. However, Yang Eui-ji, the best catcher in the KBO, who obtained free agency status after last season, went to Doosan, and recruited Park Se-hyuk, who obtained free agent status from Doosan. Here, as Lotte recruited free agent Noh Jin-hyeok, the number of wins to choose Ahn Joong-yeol, who came out as a reward player, increased.
– You are a former catcher, but the catcher team has changed a lot. Free agent Park Se-hyeok came in, but honestly, what did you think when Yang Eui-ji left?
“Ah (laugh). I didn’t expect much. There are many free agent players in our team, so we couldn’t catch all the players, so we chose and focused. His long hitting power is inferior to his will, but he strikes with accuracy in his own way. As a catcher, his feet are quick and his framing and blocking are rather more stable than Yang’s will. Joong-yeol Ahn has his own strengths, such as batting and pitching lead. Leads pitchers comfortably . If you work with Park Se-hyeok, synergy can be achieved.”
– Still, pitchers may have some difficulties because they do not have the positive will they have been accustomed to.
“Pitchers are beings who have to adapt to catchers. At first, I think there will be a different part from working with Yang Eui-ji. I think it’s important to shorten the time.”
– In particular, it seems to be regrettable that Hyungjun Kim, who returned from military service, underwent knee surgery.
“First of all, based on the current reporting situation, it seems possible to play in the game from the second half. As a catcher, I am a little cautious about the knee condition. It is important to view this year as an adaptation period and completely recover from injury without overdoing it. Futures I am preparing for a call-up after fully learning the sense of the game in the game. After one season, variables may occur on the catcher side, so I will prepare my body steadily in preparation for it.”
– Everyone says Kim Hyung-jun is a good catcher, but how much do you actually see?
“Now I am 24 years old. Even in the current KBO league, even in the mid-20s, I see Kim Hyung-jun as a catcher with the most strengths. We have to make him able to work as a good catcher for a long time because he has the qualities of a catcher who can represent not only NC but also Korean baseball.”
– Do you see him as a catcher worthy of success?
“It is enough in all aspects of offense and defense. I think the expectations will be higher than Yang Eui-ji of the same age. Hitting and defense are the same… Especially Yang Eui-ji’s shoulder is better than when he was younger. , Hyungjun Kim has more power. It may take some time to reach 30 home runs, but if he settles down, he has enough power to show double digits? Yang Eui-ji is slightly smirking.”
– There are quite a few changes in the infield.
“There is Park Min-woo at second base and Kim Joo-won at shortstop. Kim Joo-won showed a good performance at the end of last season. Oh Young-soo improved a lot as a first baseman. It’s an idea. I’m thinking of running it while preparing Seo Ho-cheol and Do Tae-hoon together.”
– Last year’s U-23 Baseball World Cup, how about shortstop Kim Han-byeol, who showed a good performance?
“He is a player to be fostered in the long term. We will continue to focus on and develop the shortstop position as a resource for future shortstops. The defense is good, but I think we need to increase the number of at-bats a little more so that we can develop further on the offense side. Kim Joo-won still has military problems. It hasn’t been resolved, but Kim Han-byeol has finished his military service. I see it as a future shortstop resource and try to develop it intensively in one position.”
◆ Heading for Changwon NC Park’s first fall baseball
Coach Kang took over as acting manager after manager Lee Dong-wook resigned on May 11 last year, and displayed his skills in raising the ‘shipwrecked’ NC Dinos to the top 5 competition team. At the time of his appointment as acting manager, NC was hopeless as it sagged with 9 wins and 24 losses (0.273 win rate), but after he took the baton, he recorded an amazing record of 58 wins, 50 losses and 3 draws (0.537 win rate) in 111 games and jumped into the fight for the top 5. Although he was unable to play fall baseball in 6th place, NC eventually appointed him as the command tower, highly appreciating his leadership and leadership.
This year, too, he starts coaching under difficult circumstances. It is evaluated that objective power has weakened the most in recent years amid the massive outflow of free agents. However, they broke through the darkness of last year’s dawn and made a morning of hope. I wonder how Kang will make the Dinos with his experience as an acting manager last year and new leadership. He said, “Our NC is never weak,” and said, “The goal is to play fall baseball for the first time at Changwon NC Park.”
– NC has been at the top in terms of slugging power in recent years. However, there are also evaluations that this year’s long hitting power does not seem to be enough to threaten other teams.
“That’s the part I’m most worried about. Apparently, even if we’re falling behind, we need to have long hitting power to turn the atmosphere over to us all at once in the second half of the game. .I’m thinking about various strategies with the coaches about scoring one point in the second half of the game.”
– If the slugging power is low, should the number of wins be increased with stolen bases and mobility? Last year, the team was second with 100 steals (1st KIA with 103).
“If the slugging power is low, you have to create a route with mobility. However, there are not that many fast players on the infield side. Martin and Oh Tae-yang and Choi Seung-min, who can be used as specials, have quick feet. Rather than focusing on those players, Kim Joo-won or 10 We need players who can do more than steal. We are thinking about those things.”
– Catcher Park Se-hyeok, who is quicker than Yang Eui-ji, came in.
– The club itself tends to use data a lot, but
“you can’t play baseball with only your senses. Of course, you need data. NC has a data team that is second to none. I definitely believe in that. But The problem is the shift. Our team has had a high probability of success with the shift. The KBO Rules Committee seems to be moving to limit shifts like the major leagues. Each team has no choice but to have different strategies and tactics.”
– People who don’t know director Kang In-kwon often think of him as quiet and sincere. What kind of person would you like to introduce yourself to?
“If possible, I promise myself not to voice my voice, but I also have a bit of a fiery personality. Players who have experienced me do not see me as a good person (laughs). There are times when the players are a little difficult. I try to understand as much as I can, but when it’s not, I think my determination is clear and certain. – What goal should the NC
Dinos run for this year?
When winning the combined championship in 2020, because of Corona 19, the Korean Series was played at Gocheok Dome, not at home. The first goal is to show fall baseball to Changwon fans. If that happens, I will prepare to go to a slightly higher place.”
– What do you want to say to the NC Dinos fans
? This year, I will try to bring the players together as much as possible so that the fans can have hope in a match. I hope many of you come to the baseball field and cheer for us. I want to play baseball where my heart beats with fans. We ask for lots of love and interest.”