Jang Hyun-seok on the valuable experience of being the youngest member of the national team
Jang Hyun-seok (Masan Yongmago), the only amateur player on the South Korean baseball team, returned to Korea with an unforgettable experience.
Led by head coach Ryu Jung-il, the team defeated Chinese Taipei 2-0 in the baseball final of the Hangzhou 2022 Asian Games on Sunday to win their fourth consecutive title. The team’s preparation for the tournament had its ups and downs, but the team, led by young players, managed to overcome the challenges and achieve valuable results.
In particular, the pitchers stood out in the tournament. Moon Dong-ju (Hanwha), the new “ace” of Korean baseball, Park Young-hyun (KT), Choi Ji-min (KIA), and others showed their focus at crucial moments. National baseball team manager Ryu Jung-il, who met the media at the arrival site, also praised the pitchers’ performance, saying, “The pitching is good.”
Jang Hyun-seok, the youngest member of the national team, also helped out in the bullpen. After pitching one inning of scoreless baseball against Hong Kong in the first round of the group stage (one hit, one walk, two strikeouts, no runs), he took the mound against China in the second round of the Super Round on June 6 (one hit, two walks, one strikeout, one run) and contributed to the team’s victory. Even though he pitched in relief in a relatively relaxed situation, it was an unforgettable time for him just to experience international competition.
“It was my first time on the national team in my life, and I’m honored and very happy to receive a gold medal on such a big stage,” said Jang Hyun-seok, who arrived at the arrival hall amid cheers from many fans, “I was very nervous until the last minute (in the final the day before). My brothers and I were also nervous on the bench, but we finished well and they were happy. The atmosphere was very good,” he said of his Asian Games experience.
Jang Hyun-seok continued, “I feel like I learned a lot. I felt that amateur ball is just amateur ball, and the professional world is different. The way my brothers warm up, the way they do weight training, and all these things are different, so I think I can see and feel that and think about what I should do when I go to the United States,” he added.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing, including a loss to Chinese Taipei in the second round of the group stage, but the team handled the setbacks with grace. Jang Hyun-seok said, “The mood didn’t really sag. “We were disappointed when we lost to Taiwan in the first game, but all of my brothers said, ‘We lost this time, so we will win in the final. We will win unconditionally, so don’t get too down, don’t get too excited, and always work hard,'” he recalls.
Jang Hyun-seok, who was selected to the adult national team before he even graduated from high school, said, “I was nervous at first because it was an adult national team, not a youth national team, and they were all older brothers and seniors, but I felt comfortable because they approached me first. I learned a lot of things such as sports and changeups, and I feel like I’m going to see and feel them again.” He expressed his gratitude to his seniors.
Jang Hyun-seok, who shared a room with Won Tae-in (Samsung), said, “We talked a lot about baseball in the room, and my brothers talked to me a lot. Tae-in also talked to me a lot in the room. After (the tournament) was over, he told me to work hard and make it to the big leagues and do well in the U.S.” “It was good that my brothers said a lot of good things to me from the first day, such as, ‘It’s great that you were selected (to the national team) as an amateur, and you throw the ball well,'” he smiled.
With the possibility of starting, Jang Hyun-seok was called to the bench in the first game of the tournament. He’d be lying if he said he wasn’t nervous. “I was nervous, and I wanted to do well, but I think I was satisfied that my nervousness led to a good result,” Jang reflects.
That doesn’t mean he was satisfied. After giving himself a score of 80 out of 100 for his pitching, Jang said, “There are some things that I’m disappointed about (why he deducted 20 points). Not only in the China game (where I was given points), but also in the first game against Thailand. But the result was good, so I think everything is fine.”
Jang Hyun-seok, who has shown promise since his freshman year of high school, chose to pursue a career in the United States instead of entering the 2024 KBO Draft. He signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers, a prestigious club in Major League Baseball (MLB), for a contract worth $900,000 (approximately 1.2 billion won).
“My goal is to make it to the big leagues as soon as possible, and if I get a chance after that, I’d like to go to international tournaments like the World Baseball Classic (WBC) or Premier 12 and do well with my seniors,” Jang said, emphasizing the pride that the Taeguk mark gives him. “I would definitely like to go to international tournaments (in the future). Being a 토토 member of the Korean national team is definitely a position to be proud of, so if they call me up, I might respond.”
Finally, Jang Hyun-seok talked about his future plans, saying, “It’s hard to say because I don’t have a clear schedule yet. I’m not sure,” he said, adding, “I’d like to meet my elementary and middle school teachers (while in Korea), and I’d also like to spend time with my high school friends, whom I haven’t seen much because of the season.”