Outfielder Park Soo-jong (25), who soothed the hearts of Kiwoom Heroes fans with his last-minute surprise performance last year, will board a flight to the U.S. on the evening of the 29th.
This year, the Kiwoom Heroes have decided to take only 24 players to the first spring camp that will take place in Arizona. The number is smaller than the 28 players on the KBO League regular season roster. The period is also two weeks shorter. After adapting to the local market on January 31, they will depart for Taiwan, where the second camp will take place on February 15. Excluding the main players, the coaching staff of the main league are comprised of players they want to check with their eyes first. For this reason, Cho Sang-woo (30) who returned after two years, Choi Joo-hwan (36), who moved to the second draft, and Enmanuel de Jesus (28), a new foreign pitcher, are also seen in many welcoming and new faces.
Among them, there was a uniform number familiar to the outfield. It was the number 14, which was the uniform number of Seo Geon-chang (35, Kia Tigers), a franchise star of Kiwoom up until three years ago. It is the number of Park Soo-jong, a handsome outfielder who attracted attention for his good looks since his debut last year. According to Park Soo-jong who met him at Kiwoom’s closing camp in Wonju, Gangwon Province last year, he carefully chose the number to resemble his idol Seo Geon-chang.
Seo is regarded as a senior and an idol that he wants to become like among players who foster his career. Seo, who joined the LG Twins in 2008, played only one game in the first division and was released. Seo’s jersey number was not 14. Afterwards, he resolved his military issues first as an active player and received an opportunity at Nexen (currently Kiwoom) through the winter test in 2011.
Seo Kun-chang, who marked No. 14 on his back, wrote a legendary story. In 2012, Seo received the Rookie of the Year award with a batting average of 0.266 and 39 steals in 127 games, a slugging percentage of 0.342 and a slugging percentage of 0.367. In 2014, he became the MVP with a batting average of 0.370 (201 hits in 543 times at bat) with seven homers, 67 RBIs, 135 runs and 48 steals in 128 games, and a slugging percentage of 0.438 at-base percentage. Seo recorded 91 percent (1,236) of hits left by the KBO League, which was written with the Heroes No. 14.
Park started similarly. After graduating from Doshin Elementary School, Gangnam Middle School, Chungam High School, and Kyungsung University, Park tried to become a pro twice, but was shunned both times. However, he entered Kiwoom in 2022 through the test, and after a year of adapting himself to the pro league, he made his surprise debut in the Gocheok KT Wiz match on July 12 last year. He played in the first division for two days due to costs and loan sharking, before moving back to the Futures League.
Up until then, he thought that his performance in 2023 would be over. However, he had high expectations again during the extended roster in September, and had three hits in earnest at the game against the NC Dinos in Gocheok on Sept. 21. After his first hit since debut, he had hits in all 11 of the 13 games until the end of the season, posting a remarkable batting average of 0.422 (19 hits in 45 times at bat) with three RBIs, seven runs scored, six strikeouts and an on-base plus 0.533 slugging percentage.
It was a last-minute income that Kiwoom did not expect much. Park Soo-jong was a player who played all outfield positions and showed defense above the league average everywhere. He received good scores in his ability to hit the ball and his ability to perform detailed operations, so he was able to get a chance in the first team. It is a great pleasure for Kiwoom, which has a power leak every year, as a player who did not expect much plays a surprise role in the first team.
Of course, it is premature to judge Park as he is a sample of less than half of a full season per month. However, many prospects showed poor performance in the Futures League in terms of mental performance, so it was worth paying attention to Park’s adaptability. During the closing camp in Wonju, Park brought up Dawson’s name as the secret of his last-minute hard hit. Ronnie Dawson (29) also joined the ranks of foreign players as an alternative to Addison Russell last year, and displayed fast adaptability with a batting average of 0.336 (77 hits in 229 at-bats), three homers and 29 RBIs in 57 games, and an OPS (on-base plus slugging) of 0.852. Having taken that seriously, Kiwoom renewed its contract with Dawson for a total of 600,000 U.S. dollars. 라바카지노도메인
Park Soo-jong said, “I was influenced by Dawson a lot. I asked him how he can hit so well because his batting mechanism was so good.” Then, he talked about mental aspects rather than mechanisms. He said he doesn’t care much about the outcome of an at-bat. Since you came to the professional stage with good skills, I hope you can play your own game with confidence. That made me confident, too, and even if I didn’t get a hit at the batter’s box, I think I didn’t miss it deeply,” Park said.
Having had a successful debut season, Park worked hard to make strong batting performances with batting coach Oh Yoon since the closing camp, while creating a routine for players in the first division. Having appreciated that, the Kiwoom team suggested Park to participate in the U.S. spring camp, and will leave with the players in the first division through a plane on Tuesday evening. Along with Park, only six outfielders are Lee Yong-gyu (39), Lee Hyung-jong (35), Dawson, Joo Seong-won (24), and Lee Ju-hyung (23).
“I want to show good performances for a long time, not just for a moment,” Park said. “Then I will become a necessary player for this team.” “I am not a batter who hits many long balls. I am more confident in contact than in my ability to select pitches. Another advantage is base running, in which he wants to get on base and run a lot to go to one more base. I want to become a player who has no choice but to send the coach to the game by hitting a double and long balls.”