“He has so much potential.”
That was the response when asked to evaluate Choi Ji-min, 20, a left-handed pitcher for the KIA Tigers. It wasn’t a compliment from Kia manager Kim Jong-kook (50). It came from his “nemesis” and former mentor, Samsung Lions head coach Lee Byung-gyu (49). Choi and Byung-gyu had met last winter when they both played for Geelong Korea in the Australian Baseball League.
Choi grew by leaps and bounds in Australia. In 17 games in the Australian League, he posted a 2-1 record with a 1.47 ERA (3 earned runs in 18 and one-third innings) and increased his velocity to 148 km/h. That’s a huge change considering Choi’s average velocity in the KBO last year was 141.1 km/h. After gradually improving his velocity in the Futures (second division) league, Choi showed promise in Australia.
Her performance continued back home in South Korea. In 20 games this season, Choi has a 2-1 record with two saves and a 1.13 ERA. His average fastball velocity was 145.3 km/h, up from last year. He reached a top speed of 150 km/h. Along with the change in his pitches, Choi also had the pleasure of recording his first win and first save in back-to-back games against Samsung in Daegu on the 16th and 17th.
Coach Lee Byung-gyu had a big smile on his face. “He has a strong heart. His fastball was in the low 140s at first, but later he went up to 150. She has a lot of potential,” he said. The fact that Australian baseball only plays four games a week, which allows bullpen pitchers to throw a full inning without pressure, also contributed to Choi’s confidence in throwing her pitches.
Choi also credits her experience and confidence in Australia for her growth. He emphasized that he gained confidence in the Australian League after seeing the results of his fastball improvement in the second team. This allowed her to focus on the batter in front of her without worrying about anything else on the mound. “It’s my advantage to be confident when I’m on the mound, thinking, ‘I’m just going to stop this situation,'” Choi said.
With his improved velocity and confidence, 안전놀이터 Choi’s status within the team has skyrocketed, and there is already talk of a spot on the team for the Asian Games (AG) in Hangzhou in September. Along with this, there is also a lot of interest in the possibility of him joining Lotte Giants pitcher Kim Jin-wook (21). Kim Jin-wook is a year older than Choi Ji-min at Gangneung High School, and they also played together at Geelong Korea. It’s also interesting to note that they’ve been on a roll lately.
“We congratulate each other when we throw well,” says Choi. I want them to do well in the league, and I want them to go to the national team together,” Choi said, adding that he dreamed of going to the AG together. “I want to stay on the first team as long as possible without getting injured for a season and help the team win the championship,” he said.