TRISTIN CLINT WRITES – October is the culmination of a long baseball season, with the potential for team jubilance at winning the championship or the despair of final defeat.
Look towards either side of the Pacific Ocean and you will see the glorious moments of postseason baseball that both fans and players live for. South Korea grows baseball players with immense talent, many of whom compete in the KBO (Korean Baseball Organization) with hopes of winning the Korean Series in October. Some players prefer to flock to the United States where they can play on baseball’s largest stage and compete for a World Series championship. Take Ha-Seong Kim, a 27-year-old Korean baseball phenom who has been an integral part of the San Diego Padres this season, who recently left South Korea for America to play the game he loves at the highest level.
Kim slid into the spotlight and replaced one of MLB’s biggest stars, Fernando Tatis Jr. of the San Diego Padres, who was suspended for the use of performance enhancing drugs earlier this season. Ha-Seong Kim joined the San Diego Padres in 2021 as a utility player but has thrived as a fan favorite in 2022, taking the place of the suspended superstar. Kim had a .251 batting average this season for the Padres, tallying 11 home runs and 59 runs batted in, while playing 150 out of the 162 games for San Diego.
Where Kim really excelled was on the defensive end at Shortstop, one of the most difficult positions in the sport-not to mention that he clearly outperformed Tatis Jr. in this respect. Kim was revered in the KBO for his dazzling defense, winning three Golden Gloves (awards gifted to the best players on the diamond in terms of fielding ability). During this, just his second year in Major League Baseball, Kim continued to show off his glovework. It was announced on October 20th that Ha-Seong Kim was nominated as a finalist for Gold Glove, the American equivalent of KBO’s Golden Glove.
Kim utilized this skillset in 2022 to help the Padres make a playoff run. Historically the Padres haven’t had much postseason success, but they advanced as far as the NLCS (National League Championship Series) in this year’s playoffs, a feat they hadn’t accomplished since 1998.
Clearly, the Padres earned their fanbase, when in the first two rounds of postseason action they took down two juggernauts-the New York Mets and Los Angeles Dodgers. They ultimately lost to the Philadelphia Phillies in the NLCS, but their playoff run was a story filled with memorable moments that fans will not soon forget.
To have this level of success without their franchise cornerstone in Tatis Jr. proves the value that Kim brought to this team. Chants of “HA-SEONG KIM” were heard on broadcasts when Kim was at the plate, with reverberations that had a ripple effect across the Pacific, heading westward from San Diego to South Korea.
The Padres have immense talent locked up with their position players, something that will keep them in the running for more World Series runs over the course of this decade. San Diego’s front office will have an interesting choice to make regarding Ha-Seong Kim and Fernando Tatis Jr. as they play the same position. Kim’s superior defense may force management to move the superstar Tatis into the outfield, which is a move they tested out in 2021.
Having Kim at Shortstop is vital because tightly contested postseason games often come down to game-saving defensive plays. Ha-Seong Kim may very well be tasked with coming through in the clutch with a trip to the fall classic on the line. Kim’s defensive accolades necessitate his presence at one of baseball’s premier defensive positions.
Regardless of San Diego’s internal decision-making, fans around the globe can be assured that Ha-Seong Kim will continue to be part of the Padres’ success for at least the next four seasons under his contract.