olympicbaseball March 8th, 2008
“The first step is the most important.” Korean national baseball team manager Gyeong-moon Kim said.
He also mention that he would use starting pitcher Sun-woo Kim (Doosan) as a relief pitcher. Kim will be the starting pitcher in the game against Spain on Mar. 10 and Min-han Son will be the starter in the game against Germany on Mar. 12. But Kim could be brought in as a relief pitcher as a crucial closer.
Korea defeated South Africa 5-0 at the Taichung Intercontinental Baseball Stadium in Taiwan on Friday. Son stuck out seven batters in six innings with one hit and no loss. Kim had no hit and no loss in two innings. Kyu-min Woo pitched for one scoreless innings to complete the shutout.
The Koreans pounded South African starter Robert Verschuren early, opening their account on an RBI double by Seung-yeop Lee in the first inning. They added two runs in the third inning on consecutive doubles by Dong-joo Kim and Dae-ho Lee, and Taek-geun Lee drove Kim home with an RBI single in the eighth. Jin-young Lee scored In-sung Cho with a double in the ninth to complete the rout.
Seung-yeop Lee has often been touted by other players for his professional spirit and attitude. During his free time, he goes to the health club at the Howard Hotel in Taijung, Taiwan to workout and lift weights. Sometimes, he teaches younger players how to build muscles and get into better shape.
While other players went shopping or watched TV on Wednesday, Lee stayed at the hotel to exercise at the club.
“I want to do my best and be ready to play the game in the utmost condition,” he said. “That is why I keep working on these weights.”
Lee is well known for his generosity and thoughtfulness towards his peers and junior players. Kwang-hyun Kim, the youngest member on the national team, said, “Lee is like an older brother or friend because he always takes care of others. I think I should learn from his humble attitude without boasting in spite of his stardom.”
If Lee is seen as very thoughtful and friendly, LA Dodgers’ Chan-ho Park, who served as team leader for last year’s national team, is known for his strong leadership skills.
Due to Park’s strong confidence and pride, he gives off a bit of a cold impression, though he is very charismatic. On the other hand, Lee, who looks soft and gentle, has a mighty spirit. His distinctive character is expected to lead the team to the finals in Beijing.
Before the game, manager Kim hope to got the win early, but it still need nine-inning to finish against South Africa.. “It is vital that we score as many runs as we can in the early innings against the teams considered weaker, as taking advantage of the seven-inning mercy rule would be the best way to save our bullpen pitchers for more critical situations.” “It would be important for us to get our wins early and give us a cushion for the rest of the tournament,” he said. “We won’t risk too much in the goal of winning all of our matches.”
Kim would obviously prefer less of a thriller, as he plans to go all out in the first three games, with contenders Australia and Mexico next in line, gunning for a comfortable lead and wouldn’t want to consume too much energy against an underdog opponent.
Even South Africa is bringing 11 players from its WBC roster to Taiwan, include ace pitcher Barry Armitage, a former Kansas City Royals prospect, Second baseman Jonathan Phillips, who once played rookie ball in the Milwaukee Brewers system, and shortstop Brett Willemburg, they still can not score a run against Korea.
For Korea, all eyes will be on the performance of shortstop Jin-man Park, considered one of Asia’s top defensive players at the position, who made the roster despite a bum shoulder.
Park’s injury makes the left part of the Korean infield an uncertainty, as Dong-joo Kim, whose value clearly lies with his bat, is a liability with his limited range at third base.
If Park fail to prove his fitness, Manager Kim could opt to switch for Son Shi-hun, slightly a better bat but much lesser of a glove, in the games against Australia and Mexico.
At least Kim has good news with batting lineup, which has the potential to be the country’s most productive ever. Expect Seung-yeop Lee, Dong-joo Kim and Dae-ho Lee, Centerfielder Lee Jong-wook, who hits for average and steals bases in bunches, is hitting leadoff, followed by Ko Young-min, a second baseman with a pop in the bat. Outfielders Lee Jin-young and Lee Taek-geun and catcher Cho In-sung combine as a formidable trio at the bottom of the order.
South Korea is currently playing in an eight-team tournament that stakes three tickets to the Beijing Olympics in August. The South Africans, along with Germany and Spain, were considered among the weakest of the eight squads, but host Taiwan and regional powers Australia, Mexico and Canada may be tough competition for the Koreans.
South Korea meets Australia today in their second match of the tournament and Mexico on Sunday.