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“Thank you for your hard work, please sign”

It was a popularity comparable to that of top idols. On Monday afternoon, the return hall on the first floor of Gimpo Airport was crowded with baseball fans who gathered to welcome the APBC (Asian Professional Baseball Championship) national team.

On the afternoon of Monday the 20th, in the return hall on the first floor of the international terminal at Gimpo Airport. Even though it was a weekday, a large number of people carrying banners with baseball players' names, cameras, and shopping bags were seen gathering at the return hall and waiting for someone. As time passed, more people gathered, and around 4 PM, the identity of the person they were waiting for was finally revealed. It was the Korean national baseball team that returned after playing against Japan, the strongest team in Asia, twice at the Tokyo Dome in Japan.

The 2023 Asian Professional Baseball Championship (APBC) national team, led by coach Ryu Joong-il, returned to Korea through Gimpo International Airport on the afternoon of the 20th. One by one, the leading figures of the generational change in Korean baseball, led by manager Ryu Joong-il, safely returned to their home country, welcomed by fans, pulling carts containing their personal luggage.

Ryu Joong-il took second place at the 2023 APBC, which ended at Tokyo Dome in Japan on the 19th, behind the wall of the host country, Japan. In the group stage, they defeated Australia 3-2 and Taiwan 6-1 to advance to the finals with 2 wins and 1 loss, but they met Japan again and lost 1-2 in the group stage and ended up losing 3-4 in overtime. I was hit.

Nevertheless, it was Ryu Joong-il-ho who returned from Tokyo with a lot of income. Following the gold medal at the 2023 Hangzhou Asian Games, the potential of young players was fully confirmed at this APBC. On the mound, Moon Dong-ju (Hanwha), Lee Ui-ri (KIA), Kwak Bin (Doosan), and Won Tae-in (Samsung) have grown into starting pitchers who will be responsible for the next 10 years of the national team, while Choi Ji-min, Jeong Hae-young (KIA), and Choi Seung-yong (Doosan). , Choi Jun-yong (Lotte)’s backdoor performance also stood out.

In the batting lineup, Noh Si-hwan, the KBO League's home run king, solidified his position as the national team's No. 4 hitter with a batting average of .308, 9, 3, 4, and 4 RBI in four games. In addition, Kim Hyeong-jun (NC), the next generation housewife, and Kim Joo-won (NC), the 'second Kim Ha-seong', maintained their gold medal spirit in the Hangzhou Asian Games, and Kim Hwi-jip (Kiwoom), who cleared the Tokyo Dome fence, also showed his presence. Thanks to this, Noh Si-hwan (first baseman) and Kim Joo-won (shortstop) were proudly named to the 2023 APBC Best 9.

Baseball fans' interest in next-generation stars such as Moon Dong-ju, Lee Ui-ri, and Kim Hye-seong was strong. One fan directly approached Lee Ui-ri, who was waiting for an interview, and gave her a gift, and a middle-aged female fan said to Moon Dong-ju, who was returning home after the interview, “Thank you for your hard work in this competition. “Please give me an autograph,” she said. Some fans even sent messages of support to the cars where the players were boarding. Shouts of “Thank you for your hard work” and “Please sign” were heard everywhere. He was as popular as a top idol. It was also impressive to see them waiting for the players' interviews in an orderly manner and expressing their fan spirit.

Although the dream of winning the championship was not achieved due to being blocked by Japan, the head coach had a bright future for Korean baseball. Coach Ryu Joong-il said, “This competition was created to improve the skills and experience of young players. “It would have been nice to have won a gold medal, but more than that, having played against Japan twice must have given the players a lot of confidence,” he said. “In particular, the starting pitchers and middle pitchers pitched very well. Everyone says there is hope, and I hope that all of them will continue to improve their skills without getting injured in the future.”

The Korean national baseball team, which featured Ryu Hyun-jin, Kim Gwang-hyun, and Yang Hyun-jong, seemed to have caught two birds with one stone: generational change and box office success, through this year's Asian Games and APBC. That part was clearly felt through the atmosphere at Gimpo Airport that day.
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Wednesday, November 22, 2023

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