“I feel like I have star quality.”
That’s what Lim Ji-yeol said after ending the Kiwoom Heroes’ losing streak with a come-from-behind grand slam메이저놀이터.
Kiwoom pulled off a thrilling come-from-behind 7-5 victory over the Lotte Giants in the 2023 KBO Baseball League at the Gocheok SkyDome in Guro-gu, Seoul, on Monday. With the win, Kiwoom broke out of a four-game losing streak and reached the 20-win (28-loss) plateau.
Lim Ji-yeol hit the game-winning run against Lotte in Gocheok on the 28th to lead Kiwoom to an upset victory. Photo (Gocheok Seoul) by Kim Young-koo
In the bottom of the seventh inning, Lim entered the game as a pinch-hitter for Kim Jun-wan. He drew a walk in that at-bat and came to bat for the second time in the bottom of the eighth inning with Kiwoom trailing 3-5.
It was a potentially nerve-wracking situation, but Lim took a wild swing at a four-pitch low 138-kilometer fastball from right-handed reliever Yoon Myung-jun. He ended up hitting a grand slam that just cleared the center field fence. It was a shot that instantly turned the tide in favor of Kiwoom, and it was Lim’s first career grand slam. It was the 1024th of his career in the KBO and the ninth of this season.
The home run gave Kiwoom the lead, and they were able to hold on for a thrilling come-from-behind victory without giving up any more runs.
After the game, Lim beamed as he said, “I tried to prepare the same (as usual) and just do what I could, and I think it paid off.” “The team was on a losing streak, so I was just focusing on winning, and I’m so happy that it helped,” he said.
“It’s not so much that it’s my first home run as it is that the team was on a losing streak and it feels good to be able to break it,” he said. “As soon as I hit it, I knew it was going to be good. I thought it was going to go over the fence at least,” he said of his home run.
Kiwoom’s dugout had been quiet of late, having lost four straight games before this one. Lim’s home run instantly lifted the mood in the dugout.
“Even though I kept trying to improve the mood in the Genie dugout, it was still down,” said Lim. “I hope my home run encouraged my teammates and gave them a chance to rebound. I think we can rebound with today’s game,” he said confidently.
Lim is a right-handed outfielder who made his professional debut in the 2020 season after being drafted by the Heroes in 2013. The outfielder, who can also play first base, batted just .255 with one home run and 15 RBIs in 157 career regular-season games before last season, but he etched his name in fans’ memories with a clutch home run in the postseason last year.
Lim’s performance in the fall baseball season started in the first game of the semifinals against the KT Wiz. In the bottom of the eighth inning of Game 3 of the playoffs against the LG Twins, he hit a come-from-behind two-run shot off LG pitcher Lee Seung-jo in the seventh inning with his team trailing 3-4. He followed that up with a leadoff two-run arch in Game 6 of the Korean Series against the SSG Landers.
Lim’s competitive instincts continued this season. On April 12, he hit a game-tying three-run shot against the NC Dinos in Gocheok to help Kiwoom win 7-4. It was his first career game-winning home run.
Later in the day, Lim also contributed to Kiwoom’s victory by firing up the cannon when the team desperately needed it.
When asked if he was bothered by the bases loaded before his home run, Lim chuckled, saying, “I didn’t care. I think (my efforts) paid off in that situation,” adding, “I think (I have) star quality.”
Lim’s father, Lim Ji-yeol, a former outfielder with the Binggrae Eagles, is the current general manager of the Seosan Second Division of the Hanwha Eagles’ operations team. What kind of conversations do he and Lim usually have?
“My dad always doesn’t talk about baseball when I’m not doing well, and when I’m doing well, he praises me for doing well. When I don’t do well, he doesn’t talk about it as much as possible. I think I’m more grateful for those things.”
To be fair, Lim Ji-yeol is not a regular starter at Kiwoom right now, but with his distinct strength of long-hitting, he is always waiting to be called upon in competitive matches.
“I’m always trying to help the team because if I do well, it helps the team. To be good, you have to work hard. I’m working hard and preparing.” Lim said.