The big match for the opening match of the present and future KBO League has not been concluded.
The 2023 season opener between Kiwoom and Hanwha, which will be held on the 1st of next month at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul, raised expectations with the possibility of a confrontation between local fireballers for the opening match. Kiwoom’s ace, Ahn Woo-jin (24), was selected, and Hanwha’s second-year young gun, Moon Dong-ju (20), was open to the mound.
Moon Dong-ju threw a fastball of up to 157km in this demonstration game and pitched well with an average ERA of 2.57 in two games. He showed off an overwhelming pitch to the extent of striking out 11 in 7 innings, confirming his entry into the opening starting rotation.
For Hanwha, Kim Min-woo started as a starter for two years under manager Carlos Subero. As the team adhered to the principle of entrusting the selection of the opening game to a domestic pitcher instead of a foreigner in terms of the team’s future, continuity, and symbolic dimension, attention was directed to Moon Dong-ju.
Until last week, coach Subero also said, “Personally, I also want to see the matchup between An Woo-jin and Moon Dong-ju. He said, “I am looking forward to the future of the KBO League,” and left room to say, “I am thinking about it,” but the final choice was the new foreign pitcher Smith.
Coach Subero, who confirmed Smith as the starter for the opening match last weekend, made it official on Media Day on the 30th. Coach Subero said, “We traditionally used a Korean pitcher as the opening starter, but this time, we broke that tradition. Smith, who has shown his best performance since spring camp, will start.” 안전놀이터
Smith, who was recruited by Hanwha with the maximum amount of 1 million dollars for new foreign players, showed a performance that matched the expectations of the first starter with a combination of a fastball with a maximum speed of 155 km and a curve with a large drop in this year’s demonstration game. He threw 12⅔ innings in 3 games and showed off his power with 7 hits, 2 walks, 2 walks, 15 strikeouts and 2 runs with an earned run average of 1.42.
In Kiwoom, as expected, Ahn Woo-jin starts. An Woo-jin, who received the Golden Glove in the pitching category last year with an average ERA of 2.11 and 224 strikeouts in 30 games (196 innings), 15 wins, 8 losses, and 2 wins in 3 games (12 innings), an average ERA of 0.75 and 14 strikeouts in 3 games (12 innings) this year. The selection for the opening match is the second year in a row following last year. On April 2 last year, against Gocheok Lotte, he threw well with 5 hits, 2 walks, 7 strikeouts and 2 runs in 6 innings, but did not receive support from other lines, so he became a losing pitcher.
Kiwoom coach Hong Won-ki said, “Ahn Woo-jin is the best pitcher in Korea. He still has shortcomings, but he is improving. He enjoys big games and throws powerful pitches, so he was chosen as the starter for the opening game.