11-win ace puts his soul on the line for South Korea’s fourth straight gold medal…”I’ll show young players that they can be strong”

“I want to show other countries that Korean young players are also strong, and that’s my biggest goal.”

Doosan Bears domestic ace Kwak Bin, 24, has vowed to return with his best performance at the 2022 Hangzhou Asian Games. The Korean baseball team will begin training at the Gocheok Sky Dome on Nov. 23 and will play one exhibition game with the Sangsang before boarding a flight to Hangzhou on Nov. 28.

Kwak Bin made his last appearance against the Kia Tigers in Gwangju on Nov. 18, pitching six scoreless innings to earn his 11th win of the season, so he’s in good spirits. After being removed from the first team roster on the 19th, Kwak-Bin spent the next 22 days training at Icheon Bears Park, Doosan’s second team training facility, to get in top shape.

In March, Kwak-bin earned his first Korean flag when he was selected to represent Korea in the 2023 World Baseball Classic (WBC). He worked harder than ever this past winter to achieve the national title he had dreamed of since he was a child.

But it wasn’t all smiles from his first international tournament. Kwak Bin pitched two innings in Game 2 of the WBC, giving up three runs on four hits with three walks and four strikeouts. It was the third consecutive first-round exit for South Korea after 2013 and 2017. Kwak Bin realized the barriers on the world stage, especially the power difference with Japan, who won the tournament. The young players, including Kwak Bin, who will be responsible for the national team in the future, said at the end of the tournament, “We will recognize the difference with the world and grow further.”

Six months after the WBC, Kwak Bin earned his second Taeguk mark. The Asian Games, where South Korea has won gold medal after gold medal, will be even more challenging, as the field is comprised of young athletes who are under the age of 25 or in their fourth year of professional competition. Three wild cards were also reserved for players under the age of 29. It’s likely to be a three-way tie between South Korea, Japan, and Chinese Taipei, and it will be interesting to see if the younger players can handle the pressure and bring home a fourth consecutive gold medal. South Korea won three consecutive gold medals from Guangzhou 2010, Incheon 2014 and Jakarta-Palembang 2018.

“I don’t feel comfortable at all. I’m under pressure. It’s my second time representing my country, and I think I’m feeling more pressure because I didn’t perform well in the first tournament (WBC),” he said.

“The first tournament (WBC) was disappointing for me personally because I didn’t feel like I pitched my best. In the second tournament (Asian Games), I’m not a young player. Except for (Park) Se-woong, there are more players younger than me. So I think I need to show my responsibility to the younger players,” he added.

Kwak also feels the need to perform well for the revival of Korean baseball. After Kwak Bin threw his last pitch before joining the national team, he said, “The tournament is short. I’m going to give it my all. Regardless of the outcome of my pitching, I want to help develop Korean baseball and increase its popularity. I think it’s more of a responsibility than a burden.”

“I want to prove to other countries that Korea has strong young players, and that’s my biggest goal,” he said. “It’s not only important to win, but it’s also important that all the players don’t get injured,” he added.

Kwak Bin has developed into one of the top starters in the league this season. In 22 starts, he has an 11-7 record, 121 1/3 innings pitched, 97 strikeouts, and a 2.97 ERA. He had 12 quality starts. With a fastball that topped 150 kilometers per hour and a trademark curveball as his main weapons, he had his best season yet. While he hasn’t completely resolved his struggles with his fastball, his first-team experience has given him the ability to run his game, and he’s gained the strength to hold on to his pitches even when they’re shaky.

His 11 wins are tied for fifth most in the league as of March 23, and among Asian Games representatives, Kwak Bin is the pitcher with the most wins this year. He’s likely to have an important role as a starter in Hangzhou as well.

“I was disappointed to be out of the rotation during the season due to back pain, but my pitches were always an issue, and unlike last year, I was able to get through more games than I thought I could even when I gave up a walk, so I’m happy with that,” said Kwak.

He attributed the faltering pitches in the second half to his physical condition. “I didn’t want to admit it,” Kwak said, “but I felt like my strength was down. “I didn’t want to admit it, but I felt like my strength was down, and I had the mindset of throwing lighter, and it got better. I think it was just a matter of responsibility, because I couldn’t take a break due to the team situation (fighting for the best-of-five). 스포츠토토

In Hangzhou, he hopes to come back with no regrets like he did at the WBC. “I heard that Taiwan has a good team,” said Kwok Bin. “It’s a short game, so we’ll see. I think it’s just a matter of who throws more and who does their own thing,” he said, vowing to come back with his heart in his mouth.

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