He may be a foreign athlete, but he feels the same way about the tragic events in South Korea. KT Wiz’s Wes Benjamin, 30, honored the first anniversary of last year’s Itaewon tragedy in his own way.
Benjamin took the mound for KT in the second game of the 2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO Playoffs against the NC Dinos at Katie Wiz Park in Suwon, South Korea, on March 31. He pitched for the first time in 25 days after suffering from poor physical condition at the end of the season.
Perhaps because of his long absence, Benjamin gave up a run in the first inning. With one out in the first inning, he gave up a single up the middle to Park Min-woo. He then gave up a 139 mph cut fastball to the next batter, Park Gun-woo, for a two-run home run over the left field fence. Benjamin gave up another run in the third inning when, after a leadoff triple by Kim Joo-won, Son Asub’s grounder to first base was poorly fielded by first baseman Park Byung-ho.
However, Benjamin was not shaken and continued to pitch his game. After striking out the side in the fourth inning, he faced a difficult situation in the fifth inning when he was hit in the thigh by a Kim Joo-won single, but he kept his composure and got the final out without allowing a run. Throwing 82 pitches over five innings, Benjamin allowed three runs on four hits with two walks and a strikeout before handing the mound over to right-hander Son Dong-hyun to start the sixth. Although he took the loss as the bats failed to tie the game, he did his job. 무지개토토
But there was one thing that stood out about Benjamin on this day. The hat he wore in game two had the words “ITAEWON” emblazoned on it. Most Korean fans knew what this meant. It was a reference to the Itaewon tragedy that occurred on October 29th of last year in Itaewon, Yongsan-gu, Seoul. On that day, 159 people were killed in a massive stampede amidst large crowds celebrating Halloween. The 30th and 31st of last month, when the first and second rounds of the playoffs were held, was the first anniversary.
Benjamin was aware of the tragedy. “When I went back to the U.S. last year, I heard that there was a bad incident in Itaewon,” Benjamin told Star News at Changwon NC Park, where Game 3 was held. KT ended its season on Oct. 22 after losing a five-game semifinal against the Kiwoom Heroes last year, and Benjamin returned to the U.S. after the season. “So I didn’t know the details, but I knew what happened.
“I heard that it was a bad incident in Korea,” Benjamin said, “so I put it on my hat as a memorial and to share those feelings with the fans because it coincided with the day I was going to start.” The fact that the game was on Halloween was also taken into account. “I didn’t do it for me, I did it for the families, and I do it every year to make sure that people don’t forget about it and keep remembering it,” Benjamin said. “I also want to thank the fans for their support.