Generational South Korea baseball aims for fourth straight gold after WBC debacle

Generational South Korea baseball aims for fourth straight gold after WBC debacle

Creating Your Own Rules to Select Your Team

  • Kim Sung-yoon and Kim Young-gyu join the team
  • Relying on youngsters Moon Dong-joo and Noh Si-hwan
  • Nemesis Japan-Taiwan must be overcome

South Korean baseball will look to bounce back from a disastrous World Baseball Classic (WBC) to win its fourth straight title at the Hangzhou Asian Games (AG). The national team made one change in the lead-up to the tournament, bringing in Kim Sung-yoon (Samsung) and Kim Young-gyu (NC) in place of Lee Jung-hoo (Kiwoom) and Koo Chang-mo (NC), who have been sidelined with injuries.

Noh Si-hwan (left), Jang Hyun-seok
Led by head coach Ryu Jung-il, the South Korean baseball team is aiming to win its fourth straight tournament. South Korea has been strong enough to win the title five times since the 1994 Hiroshima AG, when baseball became an official sport, including three straight since the 2006 Doha, Qatar, tournament that became known as the Doha Disaster.

However, it is too early to assume that they will win gold again. South Korea suffered an early exit in the first round of the WBC, the “World Cup of Baseball,” earlier this year, marking their third consecutive first-round exit. For this reason, Korea has the heavy task of turning things around with a gold medal in Hangzhou AG.

Hangzhou AG will also mark a generational change in Korean baseball. At the last edition of the 캡틴토토tournament, in Jakarta-Palembang, South Korea was accused of using the AG as a “window for exempting players from military service” during the team selection process. In response, the tournament will be limited to players who are 25 years old or younger and in their fourth year of professional competition. Three “wild cards” can be selected regardless of these criteria, but they must be 29 years old or younger.

Two players to keep an eye on in this young squad are Noh Si-hwan and Moon Dong-ju (Hanwha). Noh, a fourth-year professional infielder, is on pace to lead the KBO with 30 home runs and 96 RBIs this season. Second-year pitcher Moon Dong-ju is also expected to perform well in the AG, with an 8-8 record and 3.72 ERA in 23 games. Other players to watch include Park Young-hyun (KT), who has developed into one of the best bullpen pitchers in the league, high school rookie catcher Kim Dong-heon (Kiwoom), and Jang Hyun-seok (Masan Yongmago), the only amateur player to be drafted by the LA Dodgers in Major League Baseball.

The team also had to make some last-minute changes before the tournament. On the 21st, two days before the team’s first training session, the KBO Power Enhancement Committee announced two players to replace outfielder Lee Jung-hoo and pitcher Koo Chang-mo, who were forced to withdraw due to injury. As a result, Kim Sung-yoon and Kim Young-gyu were included in the final 24-man roster. Kim Sung-yoon is batting .314 with 27 RBIs this season, despite his disadvantageous height of 163 centimeters. Left-handed reliever Kim Young-gyu is also on track for a “career high” with 21 saves and a 3.34 ERA this season. The team will begin their first training session at Gocheok Sky Dome on Nov. 23, followed by a practice game on Nov. 26. After five days of joint training in Korea, the team will depart for Hangzhou, China on the 28th.

South Korea’s baseball team will have to overcome “nemesis” Japan and Chinese Taipei to win its fourth consecutive gold medal. Japan has fielded a team comprised entirely of players from unemployment baseball, but given the level of Japanese baseball in recent years, they are no pushovers. Taiwan has assembled its strongest roster ever, including seven minor leaguers. South Korea, which is in Group B with Chinese Taipei and Hong Kong, will play its first game against Hong Kong at 7:30 p.m. next month.

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