Ian McKinney, 28, a new foreign pitcher for the baseball team Kiwoom Heroes, stood in front of his teammates for the first time on Thursday against the Doosan Bears in Gocheok.
“The Korean language is beautiful, so I wanted to speak it,” he said, and then added a heartfelt, “Hello. My name is Ian McKinney. Take care,” he said in Korean.메이저놀이터
After impressing his teammates with those words, which he must have memorized countless times, McKinney spoke to the media after the meeting and said, “I was impressed with how friendly and respectful everyone was. I’m going to have to get used to the clubhouse quickly.”
McKinney (left) engages in a deep conversation with his teammates on his first day.
[Image courtesy of Kiwoom Heroes. Resale and DB prohibited].
The left-handed pitcher replaced Eric Yokishi, the “left-handed ace” who played five seasons with Kiwoom.
His career has been uneventful.
A fifth-round pick of the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2013 Major League Baseball (MLB) First-Year Player Draft, he didn’t even make it to Triple-A, let alone the majors, until 2021.
After going 4-6 with a 7.22 ERA in Triple-A, he spent the rest of 2022 in the independent leagues as a player and coach.
This year, with the Gastonia Honey Hunters of the independent league, he went 4-1 with a 4.24 ERA before accepting Kiwoom’s offer to join the organization.
A stellar career doesn’t necessarily mean success in the KBO, and players with one thousand career wins don’t always produce mediocre results.
Andy Van Hecken, who won 73 games in his career with the Heroes, won just one game in five starts in the major leagues, and Yokishi pitched four games in 2014 without a win in the big leagues.
McKinney will make his KBO debut on May 25 against Doosan in Gochuk.
“I know it’s a big opportunity,” he said. I’m very confident about my first start in the KBO,” he said.
At 181 centimeters tall, McKinney is not a tall pitcher, but he is the type of pitcher who uses his precise delivery to attack hitters.
When asked to describe himself to a Korean fan, he said, “I throw a fastball, cutter, curve, and changeup. Hitters tell me my fastball feels faster than a speed gun,” he said, “I hate giving up walks, and I like to be aggressive in every game.”
McKinney, who had prepared a greeting in Korean, chatted for a while with catcher Kim Dong-heon on his first day of training.
“I heard that McKinney has a coaching background, so I joked with him, ‘Why don’t you sit on the bench (as a coach) when you’re not starting,'” said head coach Hong Won-ki Kium. “He talks to the players almost like a coach. My first impression is that he’s a very studious player. He told me a lot of different (game) plans, so I think he’s prepared a lot.”
“I heard that Kiwoom is a very young team,” McKinney said. “I’ve coached and played in the U.S., and I’m always learning new things, but I also want to pass them on, so I told Kim a few things. The better the individual players get, the stronger the team will be,” he said.
Kiwoom, who joined the top-five fight after a poor start to the season, made a gamble by bringing in McKinney instead of Yokishi.
“I have a lot of respect for the fact that he played in the KBO for five years,” McKinney said of his predecessor, adding, “The team is fighting for fall baseball, and I think that will motivate me to throw better.”