“A young team with a clear future.”

That’s how Gye-hyun Cho, chairman of the KBO’s Power Enhancement Committee, envisions the team that will compete at the Hangzhou Asian Games. “We are limited by the fact that the players who will compete in the Hangzhou Asian Games are mainly under the age of 25,” Cho told the World Journal in an interview at the KBO in Gangnam-gu, Seoul, on April 15. “We plan to build a team with a vision for the future of Korea’s national baseball team, not just a one-off,” he said. “We are aggressively and closely scrutinizing the 198 players on the preliminary roster,” he said, adding, “Every member of the committee has different ideas, so we will communicate with them and gather their opinions carefully to build the team wisely.”

A decade ago, South Korean baseball was considered world-class. A third-place finish at the 2006 World Baseball Classic (WBC), a sweep of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and a runner-up finish at the 2009 WBC sent morale soaring. Perhaps they were overconfident, but their subsequent performances were disastrous. The team failed to win a medal at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 and was eliminated in the preliminary rounds of the 2017 WBC in March. In the wake of the embarrassment, the KBO formed a committee to revitalize the Korean national baseball team.

“Baseball fans are now accustomed to not only Korean baseball, but also Major League Baseball, which is at a higher level than ours,” Cho said of the slump, adding, “As a baseball person and a senior, it must have been a lot of pressure for me to support (the team’s international campaign).” However, Cho emphasized that “players who can’t handle the weight of the national team don’t belong on the team,” adding, “You have to have the mindset and responsibility when you wear the flag.” “In the past, players on the national team only wanted to play for their country,” Cho recalled, “and in my case, when I saw the flag in a foreign country, I was so excited and proud that I delayed my professional career to play for the national team.” “The expectation of the Hangzhou Asian Games is ‘of course a gold medal,’ so there is a lot of weight, responsibility, and pressure in the position of selecting the national team,” he said, “but pressure is also something that must be overcome, and I have been playing baseball under pressure all my life.”

Cho was so attached to the flag that he made his professional debut in 1989 at the age of 25, a year late, in order to play for the national team. When asked about this, Cho waved his hand and said, “It’s unthinkable nowadays because players are so expensive and valuable.”

In 13 seasons, Cho compiled a record of 126-92 with a 3.14 ERA. Known as the “Fighting Chicken” or “Eight Colors,” Cho finished five seasons with an ERA in the low 2s. In 1995, he was so good that he pitched 126 innings with a 1.71 ERA. “I’m cautious because we don’t have a national team,” he said, but he is encouraged by the number of hard-throwing pitchers. “There are more young pitchers throwing fastballs as their physicality improves, and there are also players with good fastballs,” he said, adding, “I was a pitcher with both, and you don’t have to be arrogant like me.” 스포츠토토

Cho is a “perfect fit” for the team. Cho won the first World Youth Baseball Championship in 1981, the first time he played under the Korean flag, winning all 14 games. He also won gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2014 Incheon Asian Games as a pitching coach. “It’s just luck,” Cho laughed, “and I hope this good momentum continues.”

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