Professional baseball is brutal. Of the 1165 high school and college seniors who declared for this year’s draft, only 9.4% (110) were drafted by a professional team. Even then, many players don’t make it to the first team. Even if they do make it to the first team, they are often demoted to the second team if their performance is not up to par. This was the case for former LG Twins player Park Jae-wook, 27, who was selected in the 10th round of the 2014 rookie draft. He played in the first team for the first time two years later, but spent more time in the second team than the first. He lasted nine years before hanging up his jersey last July.

However, the “second act” of his baseball career began earlier this year when he joined the “Strongest Monsters” team of the JTBC entertainment program “Strongest Baseball. He won the MVP award, beating out senior players such as Lee Dae-ho and Park Yong-taek, and established himself as a reliable catcher, helping pitcher Lee Dae-eun complete games. We caught up with Jae-wook on September 2 at his academy in Busan, where he is now busier than ever. The following is a one-on-one interview with Park.

Why did you decide to retire at the young age of 27 and do you have any regrets?

“I think I was running ahead of myself, thinking, ‘I’m going to play in the first team,’ but as the time between the first and second teams grew longer, I couldn’t ignore the financial issues. Then I remembered my coach saying, ‘Playing is not the answer. I remembered my coach telling me, ‘I think you’ll do well as a coach. I decided to retire because I thought I had a lot of life ahead of me to chase a dream. I wouldn’t have said I was quitting if I thought I would regret it.”

What is his daily routine like after retirement?

“The day I signed my retirement from LG, I immediately joined a baseball academy in Cheonho-dong, Seoul as a coach. I realized I needed to find my own path quickly. Now, in my hometown of Busan, I give lessons to kids on weekdays and take parent consultation calls myself. I also practice privately in between. On Sundays, I go up to Seoul to practice with the ‘Monsters’ team. On Monday or Tuesday, I shoot a movie and come back down to Busan. I don’t have an agency and I’m doing all of this on my own, but I still need to make money (laughs).”

Why did you apply for the ‘Strongest Baseball’ tryouts when you said you didn’t want to play baseball as a player when you retired?

“I got to know the owner of a baseball equipment store while coaching at a school in Busan. He knew my situation well, and one day he told me that a program called ‘Strongest Baseball’ was holding a tryout and asked me to try it out. As soon as I heard that, my thirst for baseball hit me hard. I thought to myself, “I haven’t given up on my dream of playing baseball yet. “I remember writing and submitting the application right before the deadline, like I was possessed by something.”

He beat out a strong field of candidates to join the Monsters. Since retiring, he’s been practicing on his own.

“Tryout day was the first time I put on a catcher’s glove as a player since I retired. Eight months is a long time for a player. I didn’t have time to do any private practice because I was teaching my kids, but when I finally got to the tryouts and caught and threw the ball, it was like I had been practicing since third grade. I think I did better than I thought I would.”

The popularity of “Strongest Baseball” is impressive. It is the No. 1 non-drama/show series in viewership and buzz, and tickets for intuition games have sold out in less than a minute. As the program grew in popularity, so did the players’ individual recognition.

“When I was on active duty, I was almost an unknown, and no one recognized me when I went out (laughs). I went to eat at a Chinese restaurant (after the program aired) and the owner gave me some kan-sho shrimp to taste and said, ‘I’m a fan.’ I also realize the popularity when parents who come to my school watch the program and say, ‘I’m watching it.

When can you tell when a pitcher is getting shaky in Monsters, and how do you relax as a catcher?

“I can feel the pitcher’s breathing getting rushed and the tempo picking up, and I’ll go up to the mound and say, ‘It’s okay,’ or ‘You can take a hit,’ or ‘You can score,’ or whatever. This interruption of the flow helps the pitcher catch his breath. At the same time, it breaks the flow of the batter’s at-bat.”

I won MVP, beating out great seniors like Lee Dae-ho and Park Yong-taek. On a memorable compliment.

“I remember PD Jang Si-won saying, ‘You’re the only one who looks elsewhere when our team is playing defense.’ I appreciated that. In a way, it’s a lonely feeling that only a catcher feels, and I was grateful that he recognized this. Even when Lee Dae-eun made a ‘perfect game,’ Coach Kim Sung-geun said, ‘The catcher did a good job,’ and these words are very encouraging to catchers, whether they get MVP or not.”

It is said that the number of people who want to play catcher is decreasing. What does he think is the cause of this, and what is the appeal of being a catcher?

“If you play 10 games, eight or nine times you’re going to get hit by a ball. There are days when you play one game and you keep getting hit, like you’re possessed. People don’t realize it, but when a pitcher throws 140-150 mph and it hits you in an unprotected area, it really hurts. But you can’t let it bother you because it can affect your game. I think there are actually fewer students who want to play catcher than there used to be. People from other positions are switching to catcher. In fact, it’s a position that doesn’t get much attention unless you’re a star player with a good bat like Yang Ji (Doosan Bears) or Kang Min-ho (Samsung Lions), but there’s something about winning a game that only a catcher can feel after a good game.” 메이저사이트

Kim Sung-geun is over 80 years old and still goes out on the field with his players. Can you feel his energy on the field?

“This summer was especially hot, so the younger players were losing their stamina and struggling, but the coach stood up and watched them, and it was impossible not to work hard again. If you’re doing something half-heartedly, he’ll say to you afterward, ‘Why did you do that? I heard the other day that he took a group of amateur players and trained them for six hours in the rain. He has a passion for baseball that belies his age.”

Many of your fans want you to play professionally again. Are you in contact with any teams?

“If you look at the comments on YouTube, there are many people who want me to play professionally again, but I quit voluntarily, so I have a ‘voluntary resignation’ status. I’m still with the LG Twins, so even if I were to come back, it would only be with LG. I wanted to try another team before I retired, so I asked them to release me, but they said they couldn’t. In a normal job, if you want to change jobs, you can leave at will, but not in professional baseball. I’m happy where I am now, teaching kids and playing for the Monsters.”

What does the game of baseball mean to him?

“It’s the first time in my life that I’ve ever been so happy playing baseball. There are only a few players who are able to become free agents and play professionally, but I’m happy to have the opportunity to play baseball outside of the professional ranks. I wonder if I had to work so hard to be this happy playing baseball. I feel like my baseball life is starting to blossom.”

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