Doosan Bears catcher Yang Ji-hye is doing his part to help the team through a difficult time. Fears were unfounded.
Yang became Doosan’s starting catcher in 2010, winning the Rookie of the Year award, and has slowly worked his way up the ranks to become one of the best catchers in the league. Even before he was eligible for his first free agency, teams were already interested in him, and his stock was soaring.
Instead of staying, Yang chose to move on. After the 2018 season, he signed a four-year contract with the NC Dinos for a total of 12.5 billion won (6 billion won in signing bonus and 6.5 billion won in annual salary). It was a surprise to everyone, but it was also a new challenge for him to switch teams.
As it turned out, Yang definitely lived up to NC’s expectations. He hit more than 20 home runs in each of his four seasons starting in 2019, and in 2020, when he blasted 33 home runs, he helped the team win its first ever integrated title. For NC, it was a moment when the investment paid off.
After four years with the team, it was time for Yang Ji to make another choice: He became a free agent after last season, but like his first free agent, he didn’t stay with the Elements. Instead, he joined his hometown team. Doosan, who were in need of infield reinforcements, actively expressed interest in Yang and signed him for a total of 15.2 billion won over 4+2 years. It was the most expensive free agent contract in KBO history.
In fact, at the beginning of the season, there were question marks. It was unclear whether he would be able to maintain the form he had shown before the transfer and whether he would be able to keep his job for a long time. What’s more, in the month of April, Yang didn’t quite live up to expectations, batting .284 with 23 hits in 81 at-bats, one home run and 10 RBIs.먹튀검증
But last month, Doosan’s faith began to pay off. Yang went 22-for-59 in May, batting .373 with three home runs and 12 RBIs. In June, he continued his upward trend, going 47-for-15 with a .319 batting average and two home runs. This helped him rank among the top in several individual offensive metrics, including second in slugging percentage (.425), fifth in batting average (.321), and seventh in on-base percentage (.481).
Defensively, Yang has also shown the responsibility of a starting catcher, playing 354 innings since the start of the season. Jang Seung-hyun (153 innings) and Ahn Seung-han (31 innings) eased the burden a bit, but he was still in charge of the infield for much of the time. Off the field, it was a big plus for the team to have a player who could serve as an anchor among the younger players.
Fans were as eager to see Yang return as the players, and they responded with the All-Star Fan Vote.
In the first interim tally of the “Best 12 Fan Voting for the 2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO All-Star Game” announced by the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) on April 12, Yoo Kang-nam led the Dream All-Star Catcher category with 347,868 votes. He was about 50,000 votes ahead of Yang Ji (297,779).
But within a week, the top spot changed hands. According to the second interim tally released on Nov. 19, Yang received 590,972 votes to overtake Yoo Kang-nam (575,041).
At this rate, Yang will play in the All-Star Game in a Doosan uniform for the first time in five years since 2018 (Ulsan).
Last year, when he was with the NC Dinos, he earned a spot in the All-Star Game as a manager’s pick, and in 2020 and 2021, when he was named to the “Best 12,” events and games were canceled due to COVID-19.
Now, if he doesn’t play a day, the void is felt. It’s even been said that Yang is the reason Doosan continues to compete in the mid-table. Yang is still “indispensable to the team.