A hit and a run in his international debut…the second baseman’s defensive brilliance [Baseball World Cup]

A hit and a run in his international debut…the second baseman’s defensive brilliance [Baseball World Cup]

It was a dream international debut for one player.

This is her third year with the national team. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been no international tournaments, so he hasn’t been able to show his skills to the world. Her international debut has finally arrived. She showed off her solid skills. This is the story of Park So-yeon, 22, an infielder for the South Korean women’s national baseball team.

Park started at sixth and second base against Hong Kong in the first game of the Women’s Baseball World Cup 2024 (WBSC) qualifiers in Thunder Bay, Canada, on 9 September.

The first run of the game came in the bottom of the first inning, thanks to a clean hit by Park. Down 0-2 in the bottom of the first inning, Park lined a single to left field with two outs. It was her first international hit and first RBI.

Park added another run in the bottom of the fourth inning with no outs on a sacrifice fly to left field. She also drew two walks on the day, finishing 1-for-1 with a run, two RBIs and two stolen bases.

온라인바카라 Infielder Park So-yeon singled to left field with two outs in the bottom of the first inning against Hong Kong on 9 September. Park had a strong defensive performance on the day. Thunder Bay (Canada) | Hye Jung Hwang. et16@sportsseoul.com

After the game, Park said, “I realised it was my first international debut. It was my first time wearing the national jersey and hearing the national anthem on the pitch. I don’t know how to describe it, but there was a ‘tingle’ in my heart.”

The key to her three hits on the day, including two RBIs, was “training every day until just before I left for Canada.” “I took a break from baseball for a while (to study abroad) and joined the national team late (in early July), but after playing baseball for so long, my defence was so bad. I couldn’t see the bounds of the ball, so I wanted to try my best to hit, so I practised batting every day and found my groove,” she explained.

Park had two chances to score the winning run, both of which she converted. “Before, when I was faced with the bases loaded, I would get impatient and use my body to take advantage of the opportunity, so this time I thought, ‘I’ll just go in and do my thing. I just need to centre the ball properly,’ and I saw the ball well. I think my swing came through,” she smiled.

Park So-yeon celebrates after hitting a single in the first inning against Hong Kong on 9 September. It was her first international hit. Thunder Bay (Canada) | Hye Jung Hwang. et16@sportsseoul.com

Park was overjoyed when she scored a run in her first at-bat. “I stepped on the base by myself and clapped,” she said. I was down 0-2 and I was so happy to score a run. I was so frustrated because I wasn’t playing well. I was frustrated with my hitting and overall frustration, but I thought, ‘I finally helped the team,’ so the ceremony came naturally,” he laughed.

He started at second base and caught every ball that came his way out of the infield. When the ball went to second base, she played a relaxed defence.

Park said, “I felt light today. I was able to instinctively get off to a good start as soon as the opposing batters hit the ball right on the bat. In all my practice games with the national team, I was nervous when the ball came in front of me, but today I felt like the ball was coming to me for the first time in a long time.” She was in top form.

Park So-yeon starts at second base and defends against Hong Kong on 9 September. Thunder Bay (Canada) | By Hye Jung Hwang. et16@sportsseoul.com

For Park, coming to Canada in top shape was a result of her family’s dedication. “I hadn’t played baseball for the past month, so I was getting a little fat at home. Whenever I was down, my family had a hard time adjusting to my weight (laughs). Also, when I went to training on weekdays, my mum always dropped me off and picked me up early in the morning. She also cooked me a lot of delicious food,” he recalls.

Park’s brother, who was an elite baseball player until high school, and her father, who also loves baseball, helped her train in the heat of the day. “On days when the middle school baseball team didn’t train in the evening or morning, I would go to the schoolyard with my father and brother to take ping-pong and batting practice every day. I would ask my brother for advice, and at some point, I got the hang of it.”

Park So-yeon returns to first base with a header as the first base pitcher makes the catch against Hong Kong. Thunder Bay (Canada) | Hye Jung Hwang. et16@sportsseoul.com

However, the team gave up four runs in the top of the seventh inning to Hong Kong to fall behind 8-9.

The umpire’s strike zone was a point of contention on the day. Inconsistent strike calls led to some of the team’s best players striking out.

Park said, “It was difficult to take a ball that went left or right as a strike, so I tried to take my hand out beforehand and hit the ball that came in. I wanted to rotate the pitches to my body faster than to hit them with a ‘pop’.”

Infielder Park So-yeon. Thunder Bay (Canada) | Hye Jung Hwang. et16@sportsseoul.com

Meanwhile, the game against Hong Kong lasted three hours and 10 minutes, starting at 12:30 a.m. KST. Park’s grandmother came to her home and the family watched the game live.

“She wrote on a piece of paper on the TV, ‘Go women’s baseball! Park So-yeon chan-chan!” and cheered us on in the early hours of the morning. “I’m grateful, but I’m upset that I lost by one point,” she said, adding, “I will continue to play against Western players (from the U.S., Australia, Canada, etc.). There is a big difference in size, but even if we are losing, I want to show the spirit of not giving up and trying to close the gap somehow.”

“It’s my own routine,” said Park, who said before the interview, “I spend about 30 minutes with (captain and catcher Choi) Min-hee working on my bat swing. If I don’t do it for a day, I get anxious. I did it yesterday and I did it today, but I think I had a good feeling today. Still, I have a big regret that if I had made a better hit with the bases loaded, we would have won,” she said, looking forward to winning the next game.

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