“The KIA kids called me and said, ‘Why are you playing for Samsung and not KIA?”
Samsung Lions infielder Ryu Ji-hyeok, 29, laughs as he refers to the KIA Tigers players who are now his former teammates. Ryu was told he was being traded to Samsung on the morning of May 5 and quickly packed his bags and traveled to Pohang. He didn’t have time to say goodbye to the KIA players he’d known for the past three years, so he quickly switched from red to blue.
KIA is actually Ryu’s second team. His first professional team was the Doosan Bears. After graduating from Chungam High School, he was drafted by Doosan with the 36th pick in the fourth round of the 2012 rookie draft and played there until he was traded to Kia during the 2020 season. Compared to Doosan, he had much less time to get to know his Kia teammates, and the second parting of ways wasn’t any easier.
“Even though I tried it once, I couldn’t get used to it. I thought, ‘Oh, here we go again. I think trading is really hard. It’s half and half. It’s half good, half hard. I always feel that if I feel like I’ve adapted, I’m going because the team needs me, and if I feel like I’ve adapted, I’m going because the team needs me,” he said, discussing the difficulty of sudden change.
KIA junior Kim Do-young even got teary-eyed while talking about Ryu Ji-hyuk in front of the press on the day of the trade. Ryu Ji-hyuk knew about Kim’s tears and tried to brush them off, saying, “I told the kids at KIA to play happy baseball. We will do well and win championships in the future. We were all doing it together, but I got traded and now I have to play here (Samsung), so I said, ‘You guys play there, I’ll play here,'” he laughed.
Ryu recorded his first hit and RBI for Samsung five days after being traded, a two-run double to right-center field in the bottom of the eighth inning of a 2-7 loss to Doosan in Pohang. He scored on the next batter, Lee Sung-gyu’s double to left-center field for his first run of the season.
Reflecting on his first hit for Samsung, Ryu said, “It was the first time I hit the fence this year. The guys from KIA called me and asked me why I hit it for Samsung and not KIA,” he explains. It wasn’t a complaint from his former colleagues, who said that Kia used to produce such hits more often.
Three years ago, his Doosan colleagues and this time, his Kia colleagues also expressed their regret when Ryu Ji-hyuk left. The fact that Ryu Ji-hyuk has such teammates despite being traded every year can be interpreted as a sign that he is doing well in the team.
“I think it’s important to show my skills on the field, but I also think it’s important to look good, and that’s how I decide what kind of person I am. I care about those things, and I think I didn’t live my baseball life in vain. I think I should do better in the future,” he said.먹튀검증
Now, Ryu Ji-hyuk will be making new connections at Samsung. He will be supported by Oh Jae-il, who played with him at Doosan, and Koo Ja-uk, who played with him in the youth national baseball team and as a business partner. Ryu will play first base for the time being in place of Oh Jae-il, who was sidelined with a hamstring injury on June 6, and will eventually take over as the starting third baseman.
Ryu wants to do his best so that his first son, Lee Hyun-i, who was proud to say, “Dad is a KIA Tigers player” in Gwangju, can now say, “Dad is a Samsung Lions player.
“I want to play baseball here that I couldn’t play at KIA. I want to become a senior who is comfortable with the juniors and play baseball like that,” he said. “Some players stand out by taking a spot, but the team needs (all-weather) players like me to make it work. I think a player like me can also stand out,” he said, vowing to do his best to fulfill his duties according to the situation.