Second national team this year. Despite wearing the same uniform, SSG Landers’ Choi Ji-hoon feels worlds apart from six months ago.
Choi, who was selected to play baseball for the 2022 Hangzhou Asian Games, had his first training session at the Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul on March 23. When I asked him if the atmosphere was different from the WBC (World Baseball Classic), he said, “It’s different. It’s a lot of pressure,” he laughed.
Ji-hoon Choi rode the “last train” to the WBC in March. Choi’s then-team, the Pittsburgh Pirates, declined to participate in the WBC due to Choi’s surgical history, and when Choi was forced to withdraw, Ji-hoon was selected as his replacement.
“Actually, at that time, I went with the mindset of, ‘I need to learn, and I hope I can go out at least once,’ but now the manager is saying, ‘He’s going to go out,’ and I feel like I have to play well because I’m a senior and I have to play well, so it’s too much pressure. I feel like I’m in trouble if I don’t do well, so I’m worried,” he confessed.
Choi Ji-hoon, who first wore the Korean flag as an adult, was one of the youngest players in the lineup at the WBC. This time around, however, the college-educated Choi sits just below wild-card pitcher Park Se-woong in terms of age. He is the oldest of the Beasts, along with Choi Won-jun (KIA). Their mindsets are bound to be different.
When asked if he’s spoken to Park Sung-ho, who was called up from the team, he laughs, “I told him to take care of himself, that if you (Gunpil-in) do anything weird, you’ll be in trouble,” and then adds, “I believe he’ll do well because he’s so calm. I’m the problem,” and praised Park Sung Sung.
Park Sung Sung is especially close with captain Kim Hye Sung (Ki Um). Choi Ji-hoon once said, “You don’t care about me because I have a close friend,” but he soon said, “I’m seeing all the younger guys for the first time, but they’re all friendly and approachable,” conveying the mood of the team.
Although the WBC was a disappointing tournament, it was definitely a blood-and-flesh experience for Choi Ji-hoon. There will be moments in the upcoming Asian Games where the experience will come in handy.
“If you play baseball in a situation where you’re being chased too hard, you don’t perform well,” Choi said. But it’s also a difficult tournament to get too comfortable. Just as Korean players are improving, other countries have also improved a lot. I thought I should have a good mix of a determined mind and a relaxed mind,” he said of his preparations for the Asian Games 토토사이트.