Choi Ji-man’s (Pittsburgh Pirates) dream of becoming a national team eventually collapsed. This is because the Pittsburgh club refused to participate in the 2023 World Baseball Classic (WBC) because of Choi Ji-man’s right elbow bone fragmentation surgery that he received at the end of November last year.
It was foreseeable to some extent. Accordingly, KBO Technical Committee Chairman Beom-Hyun Cho and coach Kang-Cheol Lee selected Ji-Hoon Choi (SSG Landers), who can play multiple positions in the outfield as a replacement for Ji-Jun Choi. Choi Ji-hoon, who is quick on his feet and has a wide range of defense, explained the reason for his selection, saying that he is capable of both running and defending in the WBC where there is an overtime game. In the end, Ji-hoon Choi had the honor of becoming the first national team member, although his relationship with the national team was broken, which allowed him to wear his first Taegeuk mark.
What needs to be noted here is whether first baseman Choi Ji-hoon dropped outfielder Choi Ji-hoon.
Initially, the KBO Technical Committee selected only three people as first baseman. They are Choi Ji-man and Park Byung-ho and Kang Baek-ho (above KT Wiz). The plan was to use major leaguer Choi Ji-man as the starting first baseman and Park Byeong-ho, who had not fully recovered from a ligament rupture in his right ankle last September, as the designated hitter and Kang Baek-ho as a pinch hitter.
Even at this time, only Choi predicted that it would be difficult to participate. Even in this case, first baseman Chae Eun-seong (Hanwha Eagles) or Oh Jae-il (Samsung Lions) were in mind.
Things changed at spring camp. As a result of constantly checking Park Byeong-ho’s injury status, there is no problem at present. Therefore, according to Technical Committee Chairman Beom-Hyun Cho, he selected a player in another position based on the judgment that there was no need to select more first basemen.
In this case, the starting first baseman for the national team is, of course, Park Byeong-ho. So what about the designated hitter? If the outfield line consists of left fielder Kim Hyeon-soo, center fielder Lee Jeong-hoo and right fielder Na Seong-beom, Kang Baek-ho should be the designated hitter.
It means that Kang Baek-ho’s performance has become more important than anything else according to Choi Ji-man’s absence.
As is well known, Kang Baek-ho’s keyword for this WBC is ‘restoration of honor’. Taking the bitter experience of baseball at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics held in August 2021 as a lesson, you should show your self-esteem as a ‘genius hitter’ this time.
Kang Baek-ho received all kinds of criticism alone at the Tokyo Olympics. 8 hits in 26 at-bats in 7 games, batting average 0.308, 4 RBIs, 2 runs, seems to have done its part, but 4 hits in 22 at-bats in 6 games, excluding the 4 hits in 4 at bats against Israel in the knockout stage won by a cold game ( Batting average 0.182) only 2 RBIs.
On top of that, in the 3rd and 4th place match against the Dominican Republic, he lost 6-10 and was caught chewing gum in the dugout in the top of the 8th inning.
Because of this, Kang Baek-ho fell into a slump even after returning to the KBO league. His batting average, which fluctuated in the 40% range, began to slowly drop, and during the month of September, he only hit the 20.5 penny range, eventually handing over to Lee Jung-hoo (Kiwoom Heroes) as the 1st batting average and sitting down in 3rd place. 메이저놀이터
Kang Baek-ho suffered serious side effects after appearing on a TV program and confessing that he developed vomiting, insomnia, and social phobia after the Tokyo Olympics chewing gum controversy.
Could it be because of this? The 2022 season was also the worst. Due to a fracture of the little toe and a rupture of the hamstring during the season, he only played 62 games, and his batting average was only 0.245, denting his reputation as a ‘genius hitter’. In addition, the 2023 annual salary was also almost halved to 290 million won, a 47.3% reduction of 260 million won from 550 million won.
In fact, if Choi Ji-man joined the national team, Kang Baek-ho would have to play as a pinch hitter. Coach Lee Kang-cheol also selected Kang Baek-ho despite his poor performance in the 2022 season because he believed he was a hitter who could deliver long hits as a pinch hitter. However, it is never easy to get a hit against world-class pitchers as a pinch hitter.
However, Kang Baek-ho is now more likely to play as a designated hitter. The painful memories of the Tokyo Olympics and the sad memories of last year’s worst year due to two major injuries should be blown away at once with a cool long hit at the WBC. This is why Kang Baek-ho’s shoulders feel heavy again.