5 Years, 100 Million’ High profile, late blooming, more beautiful

‘It’s a waiting game’.

During his senior year at Hwasun High School, pitcher Ko Young-pyo swallowed his pain. He applied for the rookie draft but was not selected by a professional team. He went on to Dongguk University to hone his skills. He improved tremendously and became one of the best right-handed sidearm pitchers in the game. He finally caught the eye of the pros. In 2014, he was selected with the 10th pick of the second first round by the upstart KT Wiz. He became a founding member of the team.

The professional barrier was higher than expected. In 2015, he broke into the first team with KT for the first time. He went 3-4 with a 5.68 ERA in 46 games and 57 innings as a middle reliever, chaser, and long reliever. In 2016, he went 2-4 with a 5.59 ERA in 53 games and 56 1/3 innings. He was up and down from game to game, lacking stability. He also suffered from elbow pain during the season.

Transformed into a starter in 2017. In 25 games and 141⅔ innings, he went 8-12 with a 5.08 ERA. Earned his first career complete game and showed some ability to go the distance. Showed promise as a starter. Ended his season prematurely with right shoulder inflammation while just a few steps away from reaching the required number of innings (144).

In 2018, he went 6-9 with a 5.13 ERA in 25 games and 142 innings. Once again, with just two innings remaining in regulation, he was sidelined by a herniated disk in his back. He swallowed his disappointment and decided to enlist in the military. He began his service as a social worker.

He took a commemorative photo with then KT President Joo Young-beom at the ‘Welcome Ceremony for Newly Designated Players’. KT pushed for a non-free agent multi-year contract with Ko after the 2023 season. A five-year, 10 billion won contract is likely.

A turning point in Ko’s baseball career came in 2021, when he returned from the military and went 11-6 with a 2.92 ERA in 26 games and 166⅔ innings. He reached the complete game mark for the first time in his career, and also racked up double-digit wins. He ranked third in the league in ERA, tied for first in Quality Starts (QS) (6+ innings with 3 earned runs or less) (21), and first in WHIP (1.04).

Thanks to his performance, KT finished the regular season in first place. The team also won the Korean Series, defeating the Doosan Bears. As a founding member, Ko was happy to be a part of the team’s first overall victory. He won a championship ring.

He also earned his first national team colors in 2021. Ko earned a spot on the national team for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. He started the semifinals against Japan and did his job, allowing two runs on six hits in five innings with one walk and seven strikeouts.

He continued to pitch well in 2022, going 13-8 with a 3.26 ERA in 28 games and 182⅓ innings. Tied his career high for wins in a season. Tied for fourth in league wins, tied for fourth in QS (21), and more.

Continued to shine last year. In 28 games and 174⅔ innings, he went 12-7 with a 2.78 ERA. It was his third straight year of double-digit wins. Finished sixth in the league in ERA, tied for fifth in wins, fifth in WHIP (1.15), and tied for second in QS (21). He led the league in Quality Starts Plus (QS+ – 7+ innings of 3 earned runs or less) with 17. He easily surpassed second-place David Buchanan’s (Samsung Lions) 12.

He also led the league in innings pitched per start with 6.3 innings per game. He allowed just 19 walks in the entire season. The fewest of any starter in the league. Second place was Won Tae-in (Samsung) with 34. He allowed just 0.98 walks per nine innings. He was the only one to keep the game scoreless. Raul Alcantara (Doosan) was second at 1.64.

Despite being called up early to compete in the World Baseball Classic (WBC) before the start of the 2023 season, Alcantara finished the season strong.

Another honor has come to Ko Young-pyo. KT offered him a non-free agent multi-year contract after the 2023 season. It was a move to retain him before he becomes a free agent after the 2024 season. The two sides agreed to a five-year contract. The details of the money are being worked out. It is likely to end up in the five-year, 10 billion won range. Ko is expected to be KT’s first non-free agent multi-year contract and the centerpiece of a 10 billion won deal.

A KT representative said, “Ko Young-pyo is a franchise star and iconic player for KT. This year, he celebrated the 10th anniversary of his debut. The club has set a policy to actively pursue a multi-year contract.” “He is undoubtedly the best player in the game, and he is a valuable starter as an ‘innings eater’ who pitches a lot of innings,” he said.

“He’s very hardworking and sets an example for other players. He is a player I want to stay with until the end and a player I want to draw the future with.” “I think he can play until his 40s because he takes care of his body, and I have faith in him.”

From a high school student who wasn’t drafted to the pros, to the starting ace of his team, to a national team member, to the main character of the club’s first history. Ko’s drama is all the more dramatic because it hasn’t been smooth sailing.

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