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Veteran catcher experiences 'weird feelings' before 1st meeting vs. ex-team

18:52 May 30, 2023

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, May 30 (Yonhap) -- Try as he might, Lotte Giants catcher Yoo Kang-nam couldn't help some "weird" sensations that he was feeling Tuesday morning.

Yoo was gearing up for his first meeting against his former team in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), the LG Twins, later in the day. After spending a dozen years with the Twins, Yoo signed a four-year, 8 billion won (US$6 million) contract to join the Giants as a free agent last November.

And instead of fighting those feelings, Yoo decided to roll with the punches as he begins the three-game series against the Twins.

Yoo Kang-nam of the Lotte Giants scores against the Kiwoom Heroes during the top of the second inning of a Korea Baseball Organization regular season game at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul on May 28, 2023. (Yonhap)

"I was okay until yesterday, but I had some weird feelings this morning," Yoo told reporters before the game between the first-place Twins and the third-place Giants at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul.

"I've been with that one team for 12 years, so I can see why I would feel this way," added Yoo, who had become a favorite among the Twins faithful with his everyman charm and occasional pop at the plate. "I am nervous and excited at the same time. I will try to view this as just another game and another three-game series."

Yoo has a lot more to worry about than his personal feelings in this series. The Twins have the league's most lethal offense, as they lead the KBO with a .290 batting average, 253 runs scored, 467 hits and a .780 on-base plus slugging. Giants pitchers will be leaning on Yoo to lead the way behind the plate.

"It's difficult to prepare for games against this team," Yoo said. "I didn't really know when I was playing for them. Being on the other side has given me a new perspective."

Yoo Kang-nam of the Lotte Giants is hit by a pitch during the top of the second inning of a Korea Baseball Organization regular season game against the Kiwoom Heroes at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul on May 28, 2023. (Yonhap)

After Yoo departed, his best friend at the Twins, starter Im Chan-kyu, has come out of nowhere as a staff ace. Im has gone 4-0 with a 1.13 ERA this month, by far the best stretch of his 13-year career.

"Chan-kyu joked with me the other day that he's having such a good season because he has a new catcher," Yoo said. "I am really happy for him. He overcame some challenges last year and it's great to see him do well."

But what if the two friends meet as opponents during this series?

"I will crush his pitches," Yoo said with a smile.



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