The KIA Tigers failed to advance to the best-of-five series.
Despite the disappointment, the steps of second-year left-handed pitcher Choi Ji-min (20) shone brightly. Within two years of her debut, she was in a full-time first-team bullpen role and earned the prestigious title of “gold medalist,” an honor not given to everyone.
Choi’s quick rise to prominence was not without hard work. After being released just a week after joining the opening roster for the 2022 season, Choi received intensive training at the Hampyeong Pitching Academy, which was opened by KIA. While utilizing Choi’s strengths of a fastball and aggressive pitching style, the academy focused on resolving the difficulty of his secondary pitches, which had been pointed out as a weakness. The training program considered not only technical aspects but also psychological aspects.
Simply training is not enough to make a difference. The second path Kia took was to improve his on-field performance. After the 2022 season, Choi Ji-min, along with Kim Seok-hwan and Kim Kyu-sung, played a significant portion of the offseason with the Geelong Korea of the Australian Baseball League (ABL). Playing against not only domestic players, but also Australian professional baseball players from the U.S. and Japan, as well as foreign players who are usually difficult to face, paid off. This season, Choi’s steady pitching not only served as KIA’s go-to bullpen, but also as a firefighter in clutch situations. His efforts were rewarded not only with a spot on the Asian Games team, but also with a gold medal in the best-of-three series.
This year, KIA will continue its off-season study abroad program in Australia. The disbandment of Geelong Korea made it difficult to develop players in the ABL, but after months of hard work, the team established a cooperation system with the Canberra Cavaliers. Instead of just sending players, KIA sets the number of games played, innings pitched, and at-bats, and Canberra executes the program. In September, KIA President Shim Jae-hak met with Canberra’s owner and agreed to send the players. The players will play a total of 40 games from the ABL’s opening game on March 17 until January 21 next year, just before the 2024 spring training.
There are five ‘Australian students’ this season: Kim Ki-hoon, Kim Hyun-soo, Hong Won-bin, Park Min, and Kwak Do-gyu. Among them, Kim Ki-hoon, Kwak Do-kyu, and Kim Hyun-soo have shown some potential for development while going through the Hampyeong Academy since last year, and have been given plenty of opportunities in the first team. While he still has some work to do, it is important for him to test his skills in the first team as well as his lack of first-team experience. Park Min and Hong Won-bin are also players that KIA is developing for the long term, so there is a lot to look forward to.
Their performance in Australia will be an important indicator of their future development and utilization in the first team. It’s the same path that Choi Ji-min took from the end of his first year to the beginning of his second year, so there are high expectations for him to produce similar results. 토토사이트
In the professional world, where you have to produce results with equal opportunities, studying in Australia is a bonus for the player. It also means that the moment he finishes his studies, he will not be able to be free of the infinite competition that can mean the difference between life and death. The performance of international students who want to become the next Choi Jimin is bound to attract more attention.