When he was first named to the World Baseball Classic in 2009, South Korean third baseman Choi Jeong felt like a kid in a candy store, excited to face a major league star for his country. rice field.
14 years have passed. Choi, who is a month and a half past his 36th birthday, will be one of the oldest South Korean players in his WBC this year. Choi’s selection, announced Wednesday, brought a different feeling to the SSG Lander veteran.
“At the time, I was happy to be there,” Choi said in a telephone conversation with Yonhap News Agency on Thursday, recalling the 2009 experience. I was proud, but also nervous, and I’m honored to have the opportunity to play against a major league player in my mid-30s.Don’t let this privilege go to waste.”
Choi is one of eight infielders, but the only full-time third baseman in Korea. Coach Lee Kang-cheol expects the versatility of middle fielders who can handle corners well, like Kim Ha-sun and Tommy Edman. However, if there are no injuries or major slump, Choi will occupy third base.
In the past seven seasons, there has been no hitter as consistent as Choi Hee-seop in Korean professional baseball. Choi had a 3-home run title in that period, and no one hit more than Choi’s 244 in the 2016-22 window. He leads all active players with his 429 all-time home runs and is on track to break Lee Seung-yeop’s all-time home run record. 467 records over the next few years.
In 2022, Choi hit 20 home runs for the 7th consecutive season and hit 26 home runs, earning his 8th Golden Glove award for the overall best player in each position.
In the WBC, Choi is not alone in the senior ranks, along with close friend Park Byung-ho, 36, first baseman for KT Wiz. Choi will lead the KBO with 35 home runs in 2021, and Park will do the same in 2022 with exactly the same total.
“I think this team has a good balance of veteran knowledge and youthful energy,” Choi said. “Byung Ho and I will be the oldest. Every team has a senior role. It puts a lot of pressure on us, but we want to set a good example for ourselves, so we instill a sense of responsibility in the team.” mate.”
On a personal note, Choi is happy to have Park by his side.
“He had a great season last year and it’s good to have someone to rely on,” Choi said. You can walk away with results and happy memories.”
Korea finished runner-up to Japan in the 2009 WBC. Choi was the backup third baseman.
2017 suffered the same fate. Due to COVID-19, it will be the first WBC since then. Choi was not selected for the 2017 national team, and only four carry over from that team to this year’s team. Che is one of his two players to have played for the 2013 team.
Despite having so many teammates without WBC experience, Choi said there wasn’t much he could advise.
“They’re all great players and they’re also very motivated,” said Choi. I did. The better I play, the more chances I have against major leaguers. They.”
Preparing for the WBC in March can be a challenge for professionals accustomed to getting ready for the season in April. Their off-season training schedule should change accordingly. Choi’s Landers will travel to Vero Beach, Fla., for spring training on January 30, but Choi said he will be there in advance to start preparing for the WBC. Australia game on the 9th.
“In 2013, I peaked too much before the WBC and was a little tired by the time the first round started.” We will pay attention to the details so that we can peak after that.” (Yonhap)