How a 151-kilometer gemstone can be polished in a showcase that changed its fortunes

Woo Kang-hoon (22), a fourth-year pitcher for the Lotte Giants, made his debut on October 5, 2023, against Sasik LG. Like everyone else, Woo can’t forget the day he made his debut.

The sidearm pitcher, making his first-team debut, threw a hard fastball. He threw a 151-kilometer fastball, striking out two and walking none in a perfect game. Kim Tae-hyung was watching the game as a commentator. Kim had nothing but praise for Woo’s pitching.

“Director Kim Tae-hyung said a lot of good things about me, so I got a lot of calls from people around me,” Woo laughs, “I was really lucky that day. The director got to know me, and people who didn’t know me started to recognize and pay attention to me. It felt good,” he laughs.

After Kim Tae-hyung took over as coach of Lotte, Woo Kang-hoon became a favorite. He joined the first team spring training. It was a showcase that he didn’t realize at the time, and he passed it with flying colors.

This is Woo’s first spring training with the first team. He was drafted in the fifth round of the second round of the 2021 Rookie Draft after graduating from Yatapgo. The class of 2021 is a stellar one. Catching prospect Son Sung-bin was drafted in the first round of the National Baseball Organization (NBO), then-pitcher Choi Max-a left-hander Kim Jin-wook was selected in the first round, and major league talent Na Seung-yup was selected in the second round. Kang-hoon Woo was selected in the fifth round. Four of the 11 2021 draft picks are currently in spring training with the first team, and Woo is one of them.

When he was drafted, he flew under the radar. He pitched just 1⅓ innings as a freshman and seven innings as a sophomore. In his junior season, he had to undergo Tommy John surgery on his elbow before being drafted as a rookie. After being drafted, he spent 2021 rehabbing and fulfilling his military service obligation by enlisting alongside 2020 first-round pick Hong Min-ki, a left-handed pitcher.

After his discharge from the military, Woo was in good shape and quickly picked up the pace in the second team. He went 16 games with no wins or losses and a 4.38 ERA in three starts. He was promoted to the first team after his last appearance in the Futures League on September 23, and his fate changed on his debut. Unexpectedly, he was invited to the first team’s spring training after successfully performing a showcase in front of the then-commentator and now-manager.

Woo’s debut left a lasting impression on his teammates. When fellow pitcher Lee In-bok was asked about Woo, he replied with one short, bold word: “You saw him last year.” In such a short period of time, the rookie made a strong impression and became a secret weapon.

“I made it to the first team in four or five months after I was discharged from the army, so I think it was fast enough,” Woo explained. Today, Woo’s body is muscular and he transformed himself with a rigorous diet. “Originally, I was a little overweight, so I thought my elbow was hurting, so I went on a diet, and when I lost weight, I wanted to keep it off, so I tried to gain muscle mass, and I think that’s what happened,” he explains.

He had surgery in high school and didn’t pitch many games. He had little confidence in himself. And rightfully so. When the team drafted him, they were taking a risk. But his time on active duty changed his mind. “I hadn’t thrown the ball much since high school,” he says. Then, after I served in the army, I started throwing the ball with the idea of not forgetting my feelings, and the fastball came by itself, and I found 토토 confidence as I threw more games.” “As my fastball increased, I didn’t care about it anymore, and now I try to throw my pitches as much as possible, looking at the center,” he explained.

“It’s wild,” said pitching coach Hyung-kwang Joo. It seems to be between a side arm and a three-quarter trajectory, which is rough, but there is power in the ball.” “The zero is still up and down. We need to see more, but it’s clear that he’s an attractive pitcher,” he said.

Coach Kim Tae-hyung is also keeping a close eye on Woo Kang-hoon. He saw early on that he could throw the best ball in practice. He hasn’t talked to Woo about the situation, but he gives him advice from time to time. “The coach told me that I should pitch a lot of fastballs because I have a good fastball, and that I should throw my changeup similarly to my fastball,” Woo explains.

The coaching staff and seniors around him were similar. “I practiced my changeup more than my fastball, but they told me that it’s better to maximize my strengths than to compensate for my weaknesses,” he said, adding, “They also told me that it would be good to throw my changeup like a fastball, even if it doesn’t have the same angle as a fastball.”

He still has a long way to go to compete for the first-team pitching staff. In the team’s own blue-and-white game on April 16, Woo gave up one run on two hits (one home run) with two strikeouts in one inning. He threw 25 pitches. He threw into a headwind and his fastball reached 143 kilometers. Manager Kim Tae-hyung said, “(Woo) has good pitches right now, but he’s not getting good counts. If you don’t get a favorable count, your odds will naturally drop and the ball will be driven in.” “Nowadays, even if you throw 150 kilometers, hitters are hitting them all. You have to be quick when you’re in a favorable count,” he said, praising his pitches but noting that he needs to improve.

He wants to play more games this year and contribute to the team’s fall baseball season. “Last year, my goal was to make the first team, but now my goal is to stay on the first team. And I hope I can help the team to go to fall baseball,” he said. Despite his embarrassment, he is determined to stay on the first team.


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