KBO managers excited to be back in front of fans in 2022 season

SEOUL-- With the start of the new season just around the corner, managers of the 10 clubs in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) said Thursday they are most looking forward to playing games in front of full-capacity crowds once again.

Celebrating its 40th anniversary, the KBO will open the 2022 regular season at 2 p.m. Saturday with five games across the nation.

This is the third KBO season during the COVID-19 pandemic. Teams have played much of the past two seasons before empty seats, with strict health and safety protocols in place. But stadium gates will swing wide open from the get-go in 2022.

Managers attending the annual media day in Seoul on Thursday all spoke of wanting to entertain their fans and deliver them a championship.

Lee Kang-chul, skipper for the defending champions KT Wiz, said his club has only just taken the first step toward an even more ambitious goal.

"We'll go for another championship, and this will be the first year when we can truly grow into a consistent title contender," Lee said. "We're also looking forward to building closer connections with our fans."

The Wiz swept the Doosan Bears in last year's Korean Series. It was the Bears' seventh straight appearance in the championship round, a league record.

Their most recent title came in 2019, and manager Kim Tae-hyoung said, "We want to bring the trophy back, and we'll be playing baseball late into the year with our fans."

Samsung Lions manager Huh Sam-young and LG Twins skipper Ryu Ji-hyun also said they want to play for their fans more than anything.

The Kiwoom Heroes, based in Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul, have seen their home park serve as the neutral site for the past two Korean Series. They were the runners-up in 2019 but didn't make it to the championship stage in 2020 and 2021, as they watched other teams celebrate on the Heroes' turf.

Manager Hong Won-ki wants to change that this year.

"We want to show everyone we own that stadium," Hong said. "It's going to be great to open the season in front of fans."

Larry Sutton of the Lotte Giants and Carlos Subero of the Hanwha Eagles will try to take their downtrodden teams back to playoff glory. Sutton said the team's goal "starts with our process."

"Our vision is to build sustainable success, and we're ambitious in everything we're doing," the American skipper said. "We want to continue moving forward, getting into the playoffs and competing for the trophy at the end of the year."

Subero, who hails from Venezuela, said the Eagles' rebuild will continue in 2022.

"Our team is taking small steps year after year for the championship," he said. "We guarantee fans that we'll play with passion and energy every day, and give 100 percent."

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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