“You have to clear your mind…”

“Tigers Express” Chan Ho Park, 28, is trying to win his first career Golden Glove. Through 25, in 102 games, he’s batting .360 with 107 hits, two home runs, 39 RBIs, 55 runs scored, 22 doubles, a .367 on-base percentage, a .356 OPS, a .723 slugging percentage and a .337 on-base percentage.

He’s no longer a weak-hitting defensive shortstop. He’s really opened his eyes to hitting since last year. He fixed the weakness of his left shoulder and leg opening before he got to the plate, and his ability to hit changeups has improved significantly. His upper and lower body movements have also disappeared.

He ranks 23rd in the league and first among shortstops with a WAR of 3.19 per Baseball-Reference. The second-best shortstop is Oh Ji-hwan (LG) with a 2.72 WAR. There’s a lot of talk about Park leapfrogging Oh, who is considered the No. 1 shortstop in Korea, to become the No. 1 Golden Glove candidate.

In fact, winning a Golden Glove is one of Park’s dreams. “I think I’m at the point where I can say it’s a goal,” he said at the spring camp in Tucson, Arizona, in February. With big dreams in mind, he continues to whip himself into shape for the best season of his life.

However, coach Kim Jong-kook revealed a hint of senility. Ahead of the Gwangju Hanwha game on the 25th, he said, “It’s still a long way off. There are 43 games left (as of the 25th). We don’t know what will happen in between. No one knows until the Asian Games are over. If you focus too much on that, it might not work out. For now, I have to clear my mind and focus on the team.”

As it turns out, Kim Jong-guk is also a Golden Glover. Like Park Chan-ho, he spent his youth as a defensive infielder, and his baseball career took off in 2002 when he won the Golden Glove for second baseman. At the time, Kim played in all 133 games, batting .287 with eight home runs, 53 RBIs, 95 runs scored, and 50 stolen bases. His solid defense earned him a Golden Glove for playing in every game and winning the stolen base award.

However, Kim believes that Park Chan-ho will be conscious of playing every game. Park Chan-ho is the only player who has played in all 102 of KIA’s games through the 25th. He could play in a full game for the first time in his career. “He will be proud to play full-time,” Kim said. If he’s playing full-time and he’s struggling, we need to adjust his stamina by substituting him in the second half,” Kim said.

Hitting, fielding, Golden Gloves, and playing in every game is all about fitness. Without physical strength, everything falls apart. Luckily, Chan Ho Park is no longer the weakling he once was. Considering that he didn’t train much in spring training due to wrist pain, he should have a great 2023 season.

However, there’s no reason for Kim to feel so old-fashioned. In an interview with KBS N Sports after his game-winning hit against Suwon KT on March 23, Park Chan-ho said he wasn’t thinking about the Golden Glove at all. For those who have watched Park’s every play this season, it’s not hard to recognize his team-first mentality. In the fifth inning of the Gwangju Hanwha game on the 25th, he stole second base with one out and no outs. It was a run that had a decisive impact on the flow of the game 스포츠토토. 

Park Chan-ho said, “I’m happy that the team continued its winning streak. I’ve been hitting well lately, so I’ve been working on my own batting plan and taking an active approach to every at-bat. I am aiming to play in every game this season. However, I want to contribute to the team’s victory without focusing on my personal goals, and I think the record will follow naturally.”

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