Head coach Jin Gap-yong bowed his head “Sorry for the same team”

Kia Tigers head coach Jin Kab-yong has bowed out of the first-ever suspension of a current professional baseball coach for alleged misconduct. Before the announcement of Kim Jong-kook’s suspension, he gave an official interview on behalf of the team and apologized.

The KIA coaching staff, including head coach Jin Gap-yong, departed for Canberra, Australia, via Incheon International Airport Terminal 1 on the 29th. They will enter the spring training camp a day ahead of the players and check the training schedule.

“Like everyone else, I heard about it through media reports,” said head coach Jin Gap-yong, “and I’ll work with the coaches to get the team back on track for spring training.”

KIA announced the suspension of Kim Jong-kook on the afternoon of the 28th. After realizing on the 25th that the coach was under investigation by law enforcement authorities, the team held a meeting with the coach on the 27th to confirm this.

The KIA organization believes that Kim Jong-kook is unable to fulfill his duties as a commander while the prosecution investigation is ongoing, so it has suspended him from his duties and will monitor the progress of the investigation.

For now, KIA has entrusted head coach Jin Gap-yong to lead the spring training camp in Canberra, Australia, from the 31st of this month. President Shim Jae-hak had a meeting with head coach Jin Gap-yong and asked him to prevent the atmosphere of the team from being agitated.

Head coach Jin Gap-yong is no different. He and Kim Jong-kook were one year ahead of each other at Korea University and have been close since their amateur days. Although they never played together in the professional ranks, they have been working together for the past five years, as Jin has been wearing the KIA jersey since the 2019 season.

After Kim Jong-kook took the reins at KIA for the 2022 season, Jin assisted him as an assistant coach, helping the Tigers reach the postseason for the first time in four years.

On the afternoon of Jan. 29, however, Jong-guk’s tenure with the club came to an end when KIA officially announced his dismissal. Initially, Jin will be in charge of spring training until a new manager is found.

Head Coach Jin Gap-yong said, “Spring training is the same every year. We’re going to follow the same routine that KIA has been doing,” he said, adding, “I spoke with coach (Kim Jong-kook) at a seminar on the 22nd, and we met on the 24th for supplies and a photo shoot. We didn’t have a meeting on the 25th, so we didn’t talk much.”

“He was always cheerful and didn’t shy away from things (even if they were difficult),” Jin said of Kim Jong-kook, and he briefly showed tears as he became emotional.

He apologized on behalf of the team, saying, “I’m sorry as a teammate (with Coach Kim Jong-kook),” and then added, “I will be a person who thinks and acts once more (starting with me).”

The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office’s Major Crimes Investigation Division (Deputy Chief Prosecutor Lee Il-gyu) announced on Sept. 29 that it has requested arrest warrants for Kim and Jang on charges including embezzlement.

Embezzlement is a crime that applies when a person receives an improper request for work and takes financial gain. Kim Jong-kook and Jang Jeong-seok reportedly received 100 million won and tens of millions of won, respectively, from a coffee company that is a sponsor of the KIA Tigers.

The Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) asked prosecutors to investigate in April last year after receiving a report that Jang had asked for money from catcher Park Dong-won (now with the LG Twins), who was playing for KIA in 2022, during multi-year contract negotiations.

On Nov. 30 last year, the prosecution launched a full-scale investigation, raiding Jang’s residence. Prosecutors have reportedly uncovered additional allegations that Jang received money from a sponsoring coffee company while investigating the attempted bribery case involving Park Dong-won. The prosecution is also believed to have found evidence that former manager Kim Jong-kook received money from the same coffee company.

Kim Jong-kook is known as the “Tigers’ One Clubman” and is an indispensable baseball player in KIA’s history. After graduating from Korea University in 1996, he was drafted by Hattae (KIA’s predecessor) in the first round and quickly became a starter. He was a key member of the team that won back-to-back Korean Series titles in the 1996 and 1997 seasons.

Kim Jong-kook won the 2002 stolen base title and the Golden Glove for second base. His quick feet and solid defense helped him become a national second baseman. He was the starting second baseman for the 2002 Asian Games in Busan and the 2006 World Baseball Classic (WBC) quarterfinals.

After retirement, he continued his coaching career at KIA. He started as a second-team fielding coach and was promoted to first-team operations and baserunning coach in 2012, and has been coaching with the first team ever since. In the middle of the 2021 season, he became the first-team head coach before taking the helm of the KIA in the 2022 season.

In his first year at the helm of KIA, the team finished fifth in the regular season in 2022, reaching the postseason for the first time in four years since 2018. However, they ended their fall baseball campaign after just one game, losing 2-6 in the wild-card decider against the KT Wiz.

Last year, they cried over their injury woes. A series of injuries to key players from the start of the season kept them in the bottom half of the standings. The final record of 73 wins, 2 ties, and 69 losses (.514) was good for a better than .500 winning percentage, but the team finished in sixth place and missed the postseason.

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