Only seven home runs in the regular season and postseason. But his impact is just as great as any other ‘home run hitter’. This is the story of Im Ji-yeol메이저놀이터 (28, Kiwoom Heroes), who delivers when his team needs him most.
In the bottom of the eighth inning of the 2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO League against the Lotte Giants at the Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul on Aug. 28, Lim hit a game-winning two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth inning, trailing 3-5, to help his team win 7-5.
Lim Ji-yeol, who first stepped onto the first team in 2019, is a “backup player” who has played 94 games (regular season) in the first team until this game. Since last year, he has spent more time in the first team, but he still hasn’t earned a starting spot.
However, since last year, he has made a name for himself by hitting several ‘clutch home runs’. He made his first postseason appearance last year, hitting one home run each in the semifinals, playoffs, and Korean Series.
This season has been similar. On April 12 against the NC Dinos, he made another impact with a grand slam over the left field fence with runners on first and second in the bottom of the ninth inning in a 4-4 tie. It was Lim’s fourth home run of the season.
In addition, he also hit the game-winning home run in this game, proving his worth once again. Up until this point, Kiwoom had won all three games in which Lim hit a home run.
“I guess I’m a star,” Lim said after the game.
“All three were equally good,” he smiled when asked which was the most thrilling in the postseason: the game-winning home run, the game-tying home run, or the walk-off home run.
“I always try to prepare the same and do what I can,” he said, “and in this case, the team was on a losing streak, so I wanted to focus on helping the team win, and I think that helped.”
The home run was hard to predict, even for the man himself. With the bases loaded, the opposing pitcher was Yoon Myung-jun, whose main weapon is a curveball. Lim Ji-yeol was also thinking of a curveball, but the ball that became a home run on a two-ball, one-strike pitch was a 140-kilometer-per-hour fastball.
“I knew he had a good changeup, but somehow I hit a fastball and it became a home run,” said Lim. “I expected a good result the moment it hit the bat. I thought it would at least hit the fence.”
While earning a spot in the first team is his top priority, Lim was thinking about the team’s performance first.
“The atmosphere in the dugout has been down lately because of the team’s poor performance, but I hope we can rebound from today’s game,” Lim said. “After all, if I do well, it helps the team. I will always try and prepare to be useful to the team at any time.”