South Korean baseball has suffered a string of near-catastrophic international failures in recent years. After winning a bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics two years ago, the team’s 4-13 loss to Japan at the 2023 World Baseball Classic (WBC) in March and failure to advance to the quarterfinals of the tournament showed that South Korea is on the fringes of the world.
The Hangzhou Asian Games is a chance to restore some of the tattered pride of Korean baseball. In the seven Asian Games since the sport was added to the program at the 1994 Hiroshima Games, South Korean baseball has won five gold medals. The team has won three in a row, from Guangzhou 2010 to Incheon 2014 and Jakarta-Palembang 2018.
However, things are not looking good for the team led by Ryu Jung-il. Unlike previous tournaments, the team in Hangzhou is composed of players under the age of 25. This is because the last time the team was selected, it faced controversy over some players avoiding military service and criticism that the Asian Games was a tool for certain players to benefit from special military service.
In response, the KBO Power Enhancement Committee and Ryu finalized the 24-man roster, consisting of 21 players aged 25 or younger or in their fourth year of professional play, and three “29 and under” wildcards, and released it in June. Given the ongoing nature of the KBO, teams were capped at a maximum of three starters to minimize the damage to each team.
With these restrictions on the roster, there is no guarantee of a gold medal in Hangzhou. Furthermore, the team is without a clear centerpiece in the offense, as “hitting genius” Lee Jung-hoo (Kiwoom), the best hitter in the KBO, had his season cut short by ankle surgery. Noh Si-hwan (Hanwha), who leads the 2023 KBO in home runs (30) and RBIs (96), will anchor the batting lineup, while Kwak Bin (Doosan) and Moon Dong-ju (Hanwha) will need to step up on the mound.안전놀이터
Japan and Chinese Taipei will also be competing for gold. Japan’s national team, despite its unemployed baseball players, is comparable to the KBO. Taiwan is expected to bring its best players from the American minor leagues and its own professional and unemployed leagues. Both teams will be tough opponents for South Korea.
The Asian Games squad will convene on Nov. 23 for their first training session at the Gochuk SkyDome before traveling to Hangzhou on Nov. 28. The team in Group B will face Hong Kong on Jan. 1 and Chinese Taipei on Jan. 2 next month before facing the underdogs who qualified on Jan. 3. The first and second-place finishers in Groups A and B will then advance to the Super Round to determine the finalists.