Two 25-year-olds, Lee Jung-hoo (Kiwoom Heroes) and Ko Woo-seok (Elgee Twins), are looking to break into Major League Baseball (MLB).
The Major League Baseball office announced their side-by-side postings (non-disclosure bids) on Nov. 5 (KST).
They’re not the only ones.
Kim Hye-sung (24), a fellow Kiwoom player, recently announced his intention to try out for the big leagues after next season.
The big league success of Ryu Hyun-jin (formerly of the Toronto Blue Jays, now a free agent) and Kim Ha-seong (San Diego Padres) has been enough to motivate players in the domestic leagues.
Ryu made the jump to the major leagues at the end of 2012 from the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) and has compiled a respectable 78-48 record and 3.27 ERA so far this year, while Kim won the Gold Glove (utility) award for the top defender in his third year in the United States.
He is the first Asian infielder to win the award.
In addition to these players, the one-time Major League performances of Kang Jeong-ho (retired), Park Byung-ho (Katie Wiz), Lee Dae-ho (retired), Kim Hyun-soo (Elgee), Oh Seung-hwan (Samsung Lions), and Kim Kwang-hyun (ESG Landers) have served as powerful motivators for younger players. 카지노사이트777
Playing in Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) used to be an option, but in recent years, there has been a strong preference for the United States.
This is because they realize that they can be competitive even if they go straight to the American stage.
While there are still some players who sign with an American team (Los Angeles Dodgers) in their senior year of high school, such as Jang Hyun-seok (Masan Yongmago) this year, more and more players are gaining professional experience in the KAVIOR League and challenging for the big leagues through postings or free agency (FA) since 2010.
While more players are knocking on the door of the big leagues than ever before, this doesn’t mean that the quality of Korean professional baseball has improved.
The game has been stagnant for more than a decade due to a missed generation change.
The 2023 World Baseball Classic (WBC), which took place in March of this year, showed exactly where the game stands.
South Korea lost its first game of the tournament against Australia in the first round of group play and was unable to advance to the second round.
Australia runs a semi-professional league for three months in the summer.
The total salary cap for a team is only around 100 million won, and most of the players have other jobs.
The result against Japan was even more disastrous (4-13 loss), with a cold game to worry about.
It was a skill gap that could not be overcome by ‘mental strength’ alone.
The Japanese team had players throwing over 160 kilometers per hour, including Shohei Ohtani (free agent) and Roki Sasaki (Chiba Lotte Marines), but the Korean team didn’t even have a player throwing 155 kilometers per hour.
The 36-year-old Kim Kwang-hyun (Esuji) was the team’s ace and the 37-year-old Park Byung-ho (Katie) was the team’s No. 4 hitter.
Looking at the individual results of the 2022 season, which was the basis for the World Baseball Classic roster, only Lee Jung-hoo (23 – tied for fifth) was in his 20s among the top 15 home runs.
In fact, after winning gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and finishing runner-up at the 2009 World Baseball Classic, Korean baseball went backwards.
Nine or ten teams (NCC Dinos, Katie Wiz) were founded, but the amateur base was weak. With limited resources and an increasing number of teams, the quality of the league naturally declined.
A major blow was the exodus of amateur players in 2008-2009 due to the US tourism boom.
A whopping 15 players (6 in 2008 and 9 in 2009) were signed by American clubs, with Choi Ji-Man (San Diego) being the only one to make it to the big leagues.
Others who failed to make it to the big leagues, such as Lee Hak-joo (Lotte) and Kim Jae-yoon and Kim Dong-yup (both Samsung), returned to Korea and were able to play through the rookie draft after a two-year grace period.
They debuted in Korea about five years later than their peers.
It was also a negative that extreme “ride-to-zero” continued for a while under the guise of “offensive baseball is fun”.
This led to the simplification of the game.
The importance of defense to avoid giving up a run or two was downplayed, and the hustle and bustle of the game was lost.
The league lost its diversity and became homogenized into “fake baseball.
Young pitchers were beaten up when they took the mound, and the “10-win rookie” became a rarity.
Since 2007, the only rookie pitcher with more than 10 wins is Soo-Joon Choi in 2020 (13-6, Katie).
The KABIO secretariat belatedly tried to curb ride-hitters by adjusting the ball rebound coefficient and expanding the strike zone after 2019.
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Moon Dong-joo and Noh Si-hwan, the pillars of the national team
A shocking preliminary round exit at this year’s World Baseball Classic was a wake-up call.
It was only after paying a heavy price that we realized the seriousness of generational change.
Given that the league never stops, the Hangzhou Asian Games squad is composed entirely of young players in their fourth year of professional baseball.
The average age of the squad was 23, which is younger than the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 (28.63) and the World Baseball Classic 2023 (29.17). Of the 23 professional players (excluding amateur Jang Hyun-seok), more than half (12) earned less than the average salary in professional baseball this season ($146.48 million).
Despite being considered the weakest team in the history of the Asian Games, the team overcame a disastrous 0-4 loss to Chinese Taipei in the group stage to win their fourth straight tournament.
The trio of 2003-born pitchers Moon Dong-ju (Hanwha), Park Young-hyun (Katie), and Choi Ji-min (Kia), who were all selected for the first time, held their own on the mound, with 19-year-old “Fireballer” Moon showing promise as the next right-handed ace of the national team.
They also found a new No. 4 hitter (Noh Si-hwan-Hanhwa).
Noh Si-hwan (23) became the first 23-and-under home run king (31) in 24 years this year. The national team, which relied on Yang Ji (Doosan), also saw potential in Kim Hyung-jun (NC) for the “safe man” position. “
This tournament marks a generational change in Korean baseball,” said Ryu Jung-il, the national team manager.
The Asian Professional Baseball Championship (APBC) 2023, which took place in November of this year and featured mostly Asian Games squad members except for Elsie and Katie, who played in the Korean Series, was also an opportunity for the younger players to develop further, although Korea lost to Japan in the final in a walk-off game.
In 2023, the KAVIO League surpassed 8 million spectators for the first time in five years since 2018.
While there was a sense of retaliation for being “stuck” during the coronavirus era, there were also many people who were inspired by the performance of young players and visited baseball stadiums.
We can’t say it’s springtime again for Korean baseball.
However, there are many positive signs.
Young players who gained confidence through the Hangzhou Asian Games and the Asian Professional Baseball Championship 2023 are looking forward to the 2024 season.
With the challenges of the 20s and the responses of the 30s, perhaps the 2024 season will be even more enriching for professional baseball.