The Korea Herald


Inspired by fan's gift, star KBO outfielder captures 1st Golden Glove

By Yonhap

Published : Dec. 12, 2023 - 10:23

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Park Kun-woo of the NC Dinos speaks after winning the Golden Glove in the outfield during the award ceremony in Seoul on Monday. (Yonhap) Park Kun-woo of the NC Dinos speaks after winning the Golden Glove in the outfield during the award ceremony in Seoul on Monday. (Yonhap)

While playing for the Doosan Bears in 2017, outfielder Park Kun-woo enjoyed his best offensive season of his Korea Baseball Organization career.

Park batted .366/.424/.582 with 20 home runs and 20 steals. He also smacked 40 doubles as part of his 177 hits. All of those numbers remain Park's career highs to this day.

Somehow, they weren't good enough to bring Park his first Golden Glove, which, despite the word 'glove' in its name, is typically given to the best offensive players at each position. In the outfield, the top three vote getters, regardless of their positions, grab Golden Gloves. In 2017, Park finished fifth among outfielders, as the awards went to two players with better power numbers (Roger Bernadina and Choi Hyoung-woo of the Kia Tigers) and one with more hits (Son Ah-seop of the Lotte Giants).

Six years later, on Monday evening, Park, now a member of the NC Dinos, finally got his hands on the coveted Golden Glove at age 33. He finished third among outfielders with 139 out of 291 votes cast by media, behind Hong Chang-ki of the LG Twins (258) and Koo Ja-wook of the Samsung Lion (185). Park batted .319/.397/.480 with 12 home runs, a career-high 85 RBIs and 34 doubles.

The snub in 2017 had never left Park's mind after all those years.

"I have vivid memories of that year's ceremony. I was absolutely devastated," Park recalled, while clutching his first Golden Glove after the ceremony. "I was worried that I'd get hurt again this time. I think this will go down as one of the most meaningful days of my life."

Park said a surprise gift from a fan in 2017 helped him bounce back after the initial shock and disappointment.

"On my way home that night, a fan gave me a Golden Glove-shaped cake," Park said. "That meant the world to me. It kept me motivated and inspired."

Park beat Guillermo Heredia of the SSG Landers by 38 votes for the third outfield spot. Heredia put up a .323/.385/.461 line with 12 home runs and 76 RBIs, along with 12 steals and 29 doubles. Those numbers are quite similar with Park's, and perhaps Heredia is feeling as aggrieved about his close call as Park did in 2017.

With his Golden Glove in tow, Park was finally able to breathe a little and impart words of wisdom to another, younger player who came up just short of his first award.

The shortstop position was hotly contested, and Oh Ji-hwan of the Twins edged out Park Chan-ho of the Tigers by 34 votes, 154-120. Park Chan-ho said before the ceremony that he didn't think he would win it but he still decided to attend so he could congratulate Oh.

Park Kun-woo said he believes Park Chan-ho, 28, will have plenty more chances to win.

"He's still young and he has his whole career ahead of him," the outfielder said. "I hope this close call will fuel him. I will be cheering him on to become an even better player." (Yonhap)