Pitching Star Rookie
Choi Chae-heung (Major in Sports in Life, ERICA, 4)
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A small white ball rolled upon a 10 year old boy. Although the boy barely knew what baseball is, he started to have an interest in baseball by joining the elementary school club as if he was destined to. This was the outset of Choi Chae-heung (Major in Sports in Life, ERICA, 4)’s baseball story. Chosen as the only university student of the 2018 Professional Baseball Rookie Players by KBO (Korea Baseball Association), Choi is beginning to embark on his professional baseball life.
Until the glorious day of professional nomination
On June 26 of 2017, Choi was nominated as the professional rookie player by Samsung Lions, one of the top 10 professional baseball leagues. The nomination symbolizes the road to success for rookies as the KBO only designates the best players and professional baseball clubs scouts new rookies based on the nomination. On the list, Choi was the one and only university student to be designated. “Although this fortunate news enlightened me, the feeling of gratitude advanced my joy. I immediately wanted to thank to all who supported and trusted me,” reminisced Choi.
Although Choi is now the talk of the town as a captivating left-handed pitcher, it was nothing like he never had frustrating moments in his life. He originally was a pitcher in middle school league which he was utterly absorbed into. However, when he stepped into the high school league, his position suddenly changed into a batter and a first baseman due to his body fitness. Because the throwing speed of a pitcher needs to exceed 100 km/h, Choi, who was relatively smaller than now, was forced to give up the pitching position. “Even though my position changed into a batter, I couldn’t give up on my dreams of pitching. Since I became pretty tall as 185cm and I’m left-handed, I thought I could set forth these strengths as a pitcher later,” said Choi. Chasing his goals, he incessantly practiced on batting and pitching at the same time.
When Choi came to Hanyang University, his coach Kim Han-geun fatefully suggested him to change his position to a pitcher. “I strongly asserted to my coach that I need to become a pitcher, and he trusted me. Kim is my life-saver and I thank him a lot,” said Choi. Endlessly training, Choi is now the best rookie pitcher throwing a ball up to the speed of 148 km/h.
However, for Choi who enjoyed the honor of one of the best high school batters before, this swift change came to him as a new challenge. “I had no idea how to even professionally practice pitching so I asked my beloved friend Lee Soo-min who is a professional pitcher at Samsung Lions and my high school friend,” explained Choi.
To wear a crown, endure the weight
When Choi was 10 years old, he suddenly got interested in joining the baseball club in elementary school. However, for a boy who never knew what baseball was, it was a though challenge. “When I first began baseball, I wanted to run away from it due to its intense training. However, I came back to the club after a month of escape because I was captivated to baseball,” laughed Choi.
Choi’s childhood wasn’t wealthy which made his parents concern about his career. “My mother opposed to my baseball career due to its expensive costs and uncertain future. However, my father who always taught me to pursue what I want, supported me,” recalled Choi. Even when Choi's performance was in its downside ,being ousted at his first-year player draft of KBO, his father was there to support him. “I persuaded my father that I want to keep my career and I will do better at university. He trusted me and I really was drafted as a rookie pitcher at KBO in my college,” smiled Choi.
As a professional player, Choi is looking forward his bright future. "I plan everything ahead in a yearly basis and I am hoping to stay at the premier league and be awarded as the Rookie of the Year without any injuries,” said Choi. For the plan, he currently is working on weight training to reduce chances of small injuries. “Because of the hard training intensity that I continued since I was a boy, I had to give up on getting good GPAs at university. Still, I’m trying to cover it up with better baseball capacity,” said Choi.
Choi’s final goal is becoming a member of the national baseball team. “Being a role model will be something I would ever ask for as a baseball player,” said Choi. In Korea, it is common for baseball players to immediately join the league after high school graduation. However, Choi’s experience at Hanyang University strengthened his capability. “I strongly suggest junior players to come to HYU because coach and friends fully support and believe in each other. With efforts of personal training and ardor, I think HYU will grow you into better players,” suggested Choi.
Kim Ju-hyun firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos by Kim Youn-soo
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