The “I’m not done” veteran is not dead…why baseball is ‘beautiful’
It’s a romance. Old men don’t die. They show up when it counts and save the team. No accolades seem to be enough. Doosan’s Jang Won-jun (38) and Kim Jae-ho (38), who were said to be “done,” made their presence felt.
Kim Jae-ho started at shortstop in the No. 9 spot in the lineup for the final game of a three-game midweek series against Samsung in the 2023 KBO League regular season at Jamsil Stadium on May 25 and went 1-for-2 with a run scored, a run batted in and a walk.
The game-winning hit came in the bottom of the 11th inning. With the score tied 3-3 and two outs in the bottom of the 11th inning, he lined a single to left field to give his team a 4-3 victory. Beamed after the hit.
It was the 14th game-winning hit in the league this season and the 1260th of his career. It is the fourth for an individual. It had been 1083 days since his last hit against the Jamsil KIA on June 6, 2020.
After all the hard work, it came, and it came right. A tense situation. A game that could have been lost. It’s no exaggeration to say that Kim Jae-ho pulled Doosan out of the mire.
On the 23rd, Jang Won-jun took flight. He started the first game of the midweek series against Samsung and pitched five innings of seven-hit ball, striking out four and walking none to earn the win.
It was his first start in 958 days and his first win in 1844 days. He wrote “Drama. He became the 11th pitcher in history and the fourth left-hander to reach 130 career wins. He became the oldest left-hander to reach 130 wins at 37 years, 9 months, and 22 days.
Reigned as the league’s leading left-handed starter. Won 10 or more games in eight consecutive seasons from 2008 to 2017 (excluding military service). He was part of Doosan’s back-to-back Korean Series titles in 2015 and 2016.
His career took a sharp downward turn in 2018. He appeared in only six games in 2019 and two in 2020. In 2021 and 2022, he appeared in 32 and 27 games, respectively, but was not satisfied.
He suffered from various injuries and underwent surgery. His velocity dropped and his pitches didn’t work. The phrase “Jang Won-jun is done” was heard over and over again.
Still, Jang Won-jun was ready. When his chance came, he pitched like a champ. Four runs in five innings isn’t exactly a stellar performance, but it was enough to give Doosan a 7-5 victory.
After the game, Jang said, “I only thought about not leaving any regrets. I was thinking, ‘I’d rather throw it up the middle and get a home run than dodge and give up a walk. I realized that it wasn’t working and thought it was better to stop.”
Kim Jae-ho was also emotional. “I’ve been trying for years to win one game, and I saw it from the sidelines. I threw too much, and it was natural for my body to break down. I felt sorry for him, and I thought, ‘I really need to emulate him,'” he said.
“He’s a friend, but as an athlete, it’s something you really need to learn. I wanted to congratulate him, but my situation was different from before. I couldn’t congratulate him in front of him. I did it behind his back,” he added, laughing.
Kim Jae-ho himself had a hard time. “My batting was a thorn in my side. I tried to recover somehow. My body wasn’t the same. I got caught up in how a player with an injury can overcome it. When I didn’t produce results, I was forgotten. I was criticized a lot,” he said.
She also said, “My self-esteem has dropped so much, but I thought I would find my confidence this year. It started in camp. It didn’t go well in the beginning. I think I’ve found it to a certain extent now. I think it’s good. I’m thinking, ‘Will there be another day like this,'” he smiled.
He can’t back down now. “Even if I don’t do well, I want to be a player who sticks around,” he said. “If you look at the Bears seniors, there are many cases where they don’t compete until the end and leave after being in the second team. I don’t want to be like that. I want to be on the field until the end, and I want to finish.
Jang Won-jun and Kim Jae-ho feel the same way. “They don’t want to be left behind and quit. That’s why they didn’t let go of the ball and didn’t let go of the bat.
Coach Lee Seung-yup said, “I want the veterans to do well. They are the leaders of the team. They can be a strength in the dugout,” Lee emphasized. He himself played until the age of 41. “I know how they feel. He’s a great supporter. 메이저놀이터
His glory days are behind him, but his “class” isn’t going anywhere. His body may not be what it used to be, but his abilities are still there. Romantic baseball is here. That’s why baseball is beautiful.