At the 2023 Asian Professional Baseball Championship (APBC), Korean baseball once again faced the high barrier of world No. 1 Japan. Ryu Joong-il, head coach of the Korean National Baseball Team, cited the problems of Kia closer Jung Hae-young as an example of how the sport should move forward.
South Korea’s national baseball team suffered an embarrassing 4-13 loss to Japan at the World Baseball Classic (WBC) in March when it was at full strength. But the APBC, an under-24 tournament, was a different story. After falling to their knees 1-2 in the preliminaries against Japan, they lost 3-4 in the finals, but as the score suggests, they put up an even fight and showed the future of Korean baseball. Moon Dong-joo, Lee Yi-ri, Kwak Bin, Won Tae-in, Noh Si-hwan, Choi Seung-yong, and Kim Joo-won, all players in their early 20s, overcame an objective power disadvantage to perform beyond expectations.
However, the head coach disagreed with the assessment that Korean baseball has closed the gap with Japan. “We did some things well, but I think our opponents were nervous because it was a Korea-Japan game,” said Ryu Jung-il, who returned home from Gimpo Airport on April 20. “There was a big difference between us and Japan in terms of batting. Even if we were able to equalize in these two games, our players’ fundamentals are still very poor,” he said.
I realized the Japanese barrier on the mound more than at the plate.
Even with the same velocity, the Japanese pitcher’s pitches felt more powerful than Korea’s. “Japanese players with similar body types to ours could throw 145 kilometers and it looked like more,” says Ryu. “I wondered, ‘Why do Japanese pitchers have a good end of the ball and we don’t?
Fireballers were once thought to be the preserve of the United States, the home of baseball. It seemed that only a long history of know-how combined with superior physical conditioning could produce a pitcher who could throw 95 mph (152 km) or more. Indeed, that’s where the dream game, Major League Baseball, is, and in recent years, there have been quite a few pitchers who have thrown over 100 mph (161 km/h).
However, last year’s Tokyo Olympics showed that neighboring Japan has also developed a number of fireballers. Pitcher after pitcher came out and threw balls in excess of 150 kilometers, comparable to big leaguers, and both Korea and the United States were brought to their knees by the high level. Japan even produced Shohei Ohtani (LA Angels) and Roki Sasaki (Chiba Lotte), who threw over 160 kilometers despite having an inferior average physical condition than Korea.
Ryu sees flexibility training as a priority for Korean pitchers to catch up with their Japanese counterparts.
“Restraint is not strength, but flexibility. In Japan, there is a weight training method that strengthens the hip and shoulder rotators. They do a lot of hip movements to build flexibility. In Korea, NC and KIA do the same training. I hope that young athletes will open their eyes to it,” he said.
The player he mentioned was KIA’s Jung Hae-young, who is the guardian of Ryu Jung-il-ho in the APBC National Team. After being selected by KIA with the first overall pick in the 2020 rookie draft, Jeong became one of the top closers in the KBO, 카지노사이트가이드 recording 90 saves in four seasons, but was scolded by Ryu at the tournament.
“When I look at her, there is almost no difference in her skills between when she first came in and now, and I scolded her for being the same as when she came in,” Ryu said, “In the end, it’s a difference in thinking. She doesn’t realize the importance of such training. “I feel like I’m only throwing with my arm, and I can’t throw 150 kilometers consistently,” she said bitterly.
Jung is planning to travel to the Worldwing Training Center in Tottori, Japan, a mecca for flexibility training, to learn new methods. “I heard that she’s going to Tottori this time. Coach Choi Il-un is there, and her father, Jung Hoe-yeol, asked Coach Choi to send his son to teach her,” Ryu said, adding, “In Jung’s case, if she improves her flexibility, her restraint will increase.”
This is not just a story about Jeong. The young pitchers who will be responsible for the future of Korean baseball need to change the focus of their training from strength to flexibility.
“It’s the same with Kwak Bin, Lee Yi-ri, and Moon Dong-ju,” Ryu says, “I’m not saying we should copy Japanese culture. It’s about doing strength training that suits our bodies. Only then can we catch up with Japan. The training method is important.”