“Ever since I was 8 years old, I used to imitate Byung-Hyun Kim in the backyard of my house.”
An 8-year-old child who grew up admiring ‘BK’ Kim Byeong-hyun (44) is now competing in the World Series for the first time in 22 years wearing the Arizona Diamondbacks uniform like his idol. The protagonist is Arizona’s right-handed underhand pitcher Ryan Thompson (31).
Arizona achieved a thrilling 6-5 comeback victory over the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 4 of the 2023 Major League Baseball Postseason National League Championship Series (NLCS) held at Chase Field in Phoenix, Arizona, USA on the 21st (Korean time).
With both teams announcing a bullpen day, the blue-eyed pitcher, who took the mound as Arizona’s sixth pitcher, showed a somewhat familiar pitching form, allowing 2 hits, 2 walks, 3 strikeouts, and 1 run in 2 innings, shutting out the Philadelphia batting lineup. The kicking motion after pitching was like watching Byung-Hyun Kim in the past, and this was no coincidence.
John Morosi of the American media MLB Network said on his social media prior to Game 4 of the NLCS, “Thompson said that former Arizona closer Kim Byung-hyun inspired him to throw with a sidearm.”
Thompson, who is from Oregon on the West Coast of the United States, was an Arizona fan as a child. At that time, Arizona was one of the best teams that advanced to the postseason in its second year of existence and even won the World Series in its fourth year, and Thompson naturally fell into it. Numerous stars were present, including the Randy Johnson-Kurt Schilling one-two punch, Steve Finley, ‘the epitome of hot hitters’, and Luis Gonzalez, ’57 home runs and 142 RBIs.’ However, what really caught Thompson’s attention was the Rattlesnake’s special closer, Kim Byeong-hyeon.
As soon as Byung-Hyun Kim joined Arizona in 1999, he was a rising star who broke through the minor league in three months, was called up to the major league, and took on the position of closer the following year. In 2001, when Arizona won the World Series with his unique pitching form of underhand but kicking with the legs, he played well with 5 wins, 6 losses, 19 saves in 78 games, and an ERA of 2.94. In 2002, he had a career-high season with 8 wins, 3 losses, 36 saves, and an ERA of 2.04 in 72 games.먹튀검증
He began his career as an underhand pitcher by imitating Byung-Hyun Kim’s pitching form, and perhaps that’s why Thompson’s pitching form has traces of Byung-Hyun Kim. An academic at his alma mater, Campbell University, who interviewed Thompson during his time with the Tampa Bay Rays, said, “People who see Thompson pitching can immediately recognize his unique pitching form. Thompson was a big fan of Arizona as a child and the submarine that won the 2001 World Series. “I liked Byung-Hyun Kim. When he played wiffle ball in the yard with his friends, he imitated Byung-Hyun Kim’s pitching mechanism to give the ball more movement,” he said.
Thompson’s underhand pitching form was not welcomed. However, high school coaches also noticed that Thompson showed the most stable form when he imitated Kim Byeong-hyun. Although he did not receive attention during his high school years, he recorded 16 wins, 3 losses, 27 saves, and an ERA of 1.12 in 70 games over two years at Campbell University, leading him to participate in and win the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) tournament. For that performance, he was drafted by the Houston Astros in the 23rd round of the 2014 rookie draft.
The career was not smooth. He did not stand out for four years in the Houston minor league, and to make matters worse, he even underwent elbow ligament joint surgery (Tommy John surgery) in 2018. Afterwards, he headed to Tampa Bay through the Rule 5 draft and was fortunate enough to make his major league debut in 2020 and also make it to the World Series.
In the first postseason, he played with an ERA of 1.93 in 9 games, but was defeated by the LA Dodgers and failed to win the World Series. After working as a bullpen member for Tampa Bay for two seasons, he was released with an ERA of 6.11 in 18 games this season.
The release actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Thompson. Arizona, his childhood favorite, signed Thompson to a minor contract last August, and he made a comeback here with an ERA of 0.69 in 13 games and 9 strikeouts in 13 innings.
Arizona finished second in the National League West Division and third in the Wild Card with 84 wins and 78 losses in the regular season, and succeeded in advancing to the postseason. Since then, he has been showing smooth progress. After easily defeating the National League Central Division champion Milwaukee Brewers with 2 wins and no loss in the Wild Card Series, they also defeated the Western Division champion and 100-win team LA Dodgers with 3 consecutive wins in the Division Series, reaching the Championship Series for the first time in 16 years since 2007. .
In the Championship Series against the Philadelphia Phillies, after two losses, they tied the series record with two consecutive comeback wins and are aiming to advance to the World Series for the second time since 2001. Thompson is also contributing to that progress, recording an ERA of 3.38 in 6 postseason games. Baseball fans are paying attention to whether the young boy who watched Arizona win its first championship will be able to lead the team to the top of the World Series on his own this time.