“Should I go back to Korea…” Kim Ha-sung, who was seriously thinking about it two years ago, didn’t give up and achieved the “era of glory.”

Kim Ha-seong (28), who even thought about returning to Korea two years ago, is now enjoying a glorious era as an indispensable ‘non-replaceable’ player for the San Diego Padres. 

On the 4th (Korean time), Kim Ha-seong 메이저놀이터 was selected as the San Diego representative for the 2023 Heart and Hustle Award. This award, presented by the Major League Baseball Retired Players Association (MLBPAA), is given to an active player who demonstrates a passion for baseball and best embodies the values, spirit, and traditions of baseball. 

It is the only award in the major leagues that is selected by voting by retired players, and each team selects one person. After the season is over, former and incumbent players vote to decide one of the 30 players as the final winner. Since its establishment in 2005, Kim Ha-seong is the second Korean player to be nominated for this award, following Choo Shin-soo (SSG Landers). Choo Shin-soo has been selected twice, in 2010 with the Cleveland Indians (now the Guardians) and in 2013 with the Cincinnati Reds. 

It is a special award given to the most dedicated and good work ethic players within the team. San Diego also posted a poster on the club’s social media, saying, “Congratulations on Ha-sung Kim being selected as the winner of the Padres’ 2023 Heart & Hustle Award.” Kim Ha-seong also posted this poster on his social media and added a short comment, ‘It means a lot to me’ with a smiley emoticon. 

Kim Ha-seong, who has become a trademark of having his helmet come off every time he sprints, is loved by fans and trusted and recognized by his fellow players for his unrepentant play in karate-ju. There are many outstanding star players in San Diego, but this award suits Kim Ha-seong better than anyone else. 

The local magazine’San Diego Union-Tribune’ also reported this news and said, ‘Ha-seong Kim, all things considered, could be the MVP of the Padres. His way of playing is definitely highly praised.”

Then, Ha-sung Kim, who has been in his third year since leaving Korea and signed with the Padres, moved from shortstop to second base and is recording career highs with 15 home runs and batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage of .284/.380/.458. Kim Ha-seong, who has a career high of stealing bases (22), is 6th overall with 14 defensive run saves (DRS, the number of runs prevented by defense) in defense, and 1st among second basemen with 10.” 

It was unimaginable even in 2021, the first year of entering the major leagues. Kim Ha-seong, who appeared with Choi Ji-man (San Diego) in the YouTube personal broadcast of Kang Jung-ho, a major leaguer uploaded on the 3rd, said, “The first year was really very difficult. “Should I give up everything and go back to Korea?” I thought a lot. “The reason why I couldn’t give up at that time was that it was so broken that even if I went back to Korea, I wouldn’t be able to play baseball like I did in Korea. That’s how psychologically, my mentality was so broken.” 

In the first year of 2021, Ha-seong Kim was a backup player. He had a batting average of .222 in 117 games (63 starts) without a fixed position (54 hits in 267 at-bats), 8 homers, 34 RBIs, and an OPS of just .622. Ha-seong Kim said, “(Kang) Jung-ho opened the way with a post, so I came with a good contract. The next players will also come to the US with posts, but I was a bit scared that I could become the reference point. Especially in his first year. ‘What if I can’t come anymore because of me?’ There was something like this,” he confessed his heartache. 

There was a period of trials enough to seriously consider returning to Korea, but Kim Ha-seong did not give up. Last year, he did not miss the opportunity to start as a substitute for Fernando Tatis Jr., and although there was a position change this year, he made a complete leap from airlifting to the league’s top player. It seems that Ha-sung Kim will benefit greatly from his junior players from Lee Jung-hoo (Kiwoom Heroes) this winter following the well-paved road.