“I am the only professional third baseman (on the national team).”
Ahead of the first training session for the 2023 World Baseball Classic (WBC) national team, Choi Jeong (36, SSG), the only third baseman, felt a sense of pressure on his face. And the scene where you can’t help but sympathize with the burden came out from his first training.
Choi Jeong-eun participated in his first official training session held at the Kino Sports Complex in Tucson, Arizona on the 16th (Korean time). In the training that day, Choi Jeong-eun received a fungo at third base along with catchers Yang Eui-ji (36, Doosan) and Lee Ji-young (37, Kiwoom).
It is not uncommon to see catchers receiving fungoes from third base. It helps to experience irregular bounces, and the distance to first base is also helpful for throwing practice. However, it is only training, and among them, Choi Jeong is the only one who can play as a third baseman. On the other hand, on the other side of the infield, in contrast to him, the existing Park Byeong-ho (37), Kang Baek-ho (24, KT), and Kim Hyun-soo (35, LG) drew attention by digesting the first base defense.
In response, Lee Kang-cheol, coach of the national team, explained, “If you go into a penalty shootout, (Park) Byeong-ho and (Kang) Baek-ho may be at bat. Or, Byeong-ho and Baek-ho may become runners, and they may have to be replaced with faster players.” When I ordered it, (Kim Hyun-soo) did a good job. (Park) Hae-min is also going to try it next time.” 안전놀이터
According to the coach, the first base of the national team has a plan D. In fact, Kim Hyun-soo has a wealth of experience, such as digesting 452⅓ innings in 68 games as a first baseman in 2018. Park Hae-min has also consistently played as a first baseman, even 1-2 innings a year since his rookie days, and has shown a good ratio to the point of being nicknamed ‘one innings’.
Of course, he also has many alternatives to third base. Coach Lee Kang-cheol mentioned the possibility of using third base for Ha-seong Kim (28, San Diego) and Tommy Edman (28, St. Louis) in the announcement of the national team’s final entry last month. As both of them are former shortstops with experience at third base and decent defense, they can serve as backups. However, both of them can only join the national team in March due to their participation in the spring camp of their respective teams, so it is not suitable for them to play the infield in the practice game to be held in Arizona.
Meanwhile, Oh Ji-hwan (33, LG) and Kim Hye-seong (24, Kiwoom), who were other shortstops, trained only at shortstop and second baseman, respectively, their respective positions. As they are expected to take the third base test in turn while Kim Ha-seong and Edman are gone, attention is focused on who will be the player who will relieve Choi Jeong’s burden.