Although he is the 31st player, he has more uses than anyone else. SSG Landers outfielder Choi Ji-hoon (26) pledged to play an active part in the World Baseball Classic (WBC).
Lee Kang-cheol, who will compete in the WBC in March, has lost one of his key players. Choi Ji-man (31) of the Pittsburgh Pirates was unable to join the team last winter due to the aftermath of bone fracture surgery on his elbow. The national team selected Choi Ji-hoon as a substitute for Choi Ji-man ahead of the submission of the final 30-man entry. Choi Ji-hoon played in all regular season games (144) last year, his third year as a pro, and recorded a batting average of 0.304 (173 hits in 569 at-bats), 10 homers, 61 RBIs and 31 stolen bases.
Rival Japan, which will play Group B in the group stage, does not take Choi Ji-hoon lightly. Tokyo Sports said, ‘Choi Ji-hoon’s strong patriotism can be a threat to Japan. He is the best young outfielder in the KBO with both offense and defense. He is a player with a hot personality,” said Choi
Ji-hoon, who we met on the 11th at Vero Beach, Florida, USA, “I saw an article. He smiled, saying, “I’m on the side of patriotism. It’s good that there is an article. Being wary of him in Japan, he gained confidence,” he said. 메이저놀이터
Choi Ji-hoon participated in the 2018 Under-23 Baseball World Cup while attending Dongguk University and played an active role with a batting average of 0.333 (12 hits in 36 at-bats). And after 5 years, he put on the Taegeuk mark again and went to the WBC, where the best players in the world compete. Choi Ji-hoon said, “WBC is a tournament with a different class. I am preparing with a new mindset.”
Choi Ji-hoon is a player who overcame adversity. When he graduated from Gwangju Il High School in 2017, he was not named to a professional team. However, he grew up in college and was selected by SK Wyverns (predecessor to SSG) in 2020. He went through trial and error early in his pro career, but exploded his potential last year. He, whose “dream was to become a professional player”, was selected for the national team, the highest honor. Choi Ji-hoon said, “After joining the national team, I calmly talked to his parents on the phone. But later, they said he shed tears.”
His physical condition is also very good. Choi Ji-hoon, who trained for about 10 days in the US, said, “I did weight training just like last year, but I gained 7-8 kg. I am satisfied with the increase in muscle rather than body fat.” Choi Ji-hoon will move to Tucson, Arizona for the national team convocation training on the 14th. He said, “I wasn’t selected for the national team from the beginning, but I prepared well. I haven’t hit the ball thrown by the pitcher yet, but it will get better.”
Although he is a substitute player, expectations for Choi Ji-hoon are not small. Because he can play a variety of roles. SSG coach Kim Won-hyung was also pleased, saying, “I was selected late, but Ji-hoon is a talented player.” He went on to say, “There’s going to be something he can do on bunts or runs or something.” SSG coach Lee Jin-young, who became the ‘national right fielder’ at the WBC in 2006, said, “It’s a national team with the best players, so it’s highly likely to go as a backup, but Ji-hoon is the top in defense. He can help the team win.” .
Choi Ji-hoon is also preparing with the desire to show off his talent. Choi Ji-hoon said, “Kim Kang-min playfully said, ‘The people who save the country are fixed anyway, so don’t try to do anything, just do what you feel comfortable with.’ I was relieved.” Then, he said, “If he can get out of any situation, he will play with a sense of responsibility and befitting the Taegeuk mark.”