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Doosan Bears' 'local ace' pitcher Kwak Bin has grown significantly by participating in three international competitions. Kwak Bin, who has established himself as a native starter representing the league beyond the team, wants to grow further into the league's strongest ace with no weaknesses in the 2024 season.
Kwak Bin was selected as a national team player three times in 2023. Starting with the World Baseball Classic (WBC) before the start of the 2023 season, the Hangzhou Asian Games in the middle of the season, and after the end of the season, he joined the national team and pitched for the Asian Professional Baseball Championship (APBC).
In particular, Kwak Bin's fight against Korea and Japan in the APBC final was a moment to wash away the regret of not being able to appear in the Asian Games. Kwak Bin met the requirements for a winning pitcher by pitching 5 innings against Korea and Japan, allowing 5 hits (1 home run) on 88 pitches, striking out 6, walking 3, and allowing 1 run. Although the winning pitcher requirement was lost due to a come-from-behind loss, Kwak Bin showed off a competitive pitch with a sharp curve and change-up against NBP's main hitters who were evaluated as one step above.
Kwak Bin, who met with reporters ahead of the Bears’ meeting on November 25, said, “I felt that I had improved my level after attending the national team three times this year. When he pitched in the APBC finals, he threw with more focus to shake off his regrets from the Asian Games. The opposing Japanese batters responded well to fastballs, so the proportion of breaking balls increased more than expected. During the last strikeout in the bottom of the 4th inning, he was trying to throw a curveball, but I chose a changeup, and the result was good, so I clenched my fist without realizing it (laughter). I was a little foolish when I hit the home run in the bottom of the 5th inning. He should have thrown a fastball. Still, I have no regrets,” he said, looking back on his appearance in the Korea-Japan match.
Kwak Bin also gave a thumbs up to his teammate and junior Choi Seung-yong, who went to the APBC national team with him. Choi Seung-yong pitched as a bullpen for the APBC national team and left an impressive pitching record.
Kwak Bin said, “(Choi) Seung-yong’s pitch was so good that I wondered why he didn’t throw it like that in the league. Considering the first time I threw it during the WBC, I threw it really well. It was for international use (laughs). When I saw Seungyong throwing well, I honestly felt pressured about what would happen if I couldn't throw well. Still, the memory of throwing during the WBC was helpful. “Every time I go to the national team, I feel that I am still lacking and have a long way to go,” he said, nodding.
Although they lost in the final match between Korea and Japan, unlike in the WBC, there was greater public support for the national team players who fought on equal footing. Kwak Bin also saw hope for Korean baseball through the APBC tournament.
Kwak Bin said, “I think he saw hope for Korean baseball in this tournament. The young players fought so well that I thought they could really aim for the championship if (Park) Young-Hyun came. In particular, Dong-ju (Moon) was amazing. It was scary how much bigger a player he could become. I thought it wouldn't work for Dongju. You have to admit what you have to admit. “Personally, I want to carry that feeling of holding on until the end without completely collapsing during my appearance in the finals into next season,” he emphasized.
Doosan's native starting lineup for the 2024 season is expected to face fierce internal competition. In addition to the existing first-team starting lineup of Kwak Bin, Choi Won-jun, Choi Seung-yong, and Kim Dong-ju, there is a high possibility that Choi Jun-ho and Kim Yu-seong, who are growing in the Future Team, will emerge as dark horses. Choi Won-jun jokingly acknowledged Kwak Bin’s growth, saying, “I don’t know if (Kwak) Bin will compete with me anymore.”
Kwak Bin said, “I don’t think (Choi) Won-jun has the skills to challenge his older brother yet (laughter). I did well this year. The juniors below are also good at raw balls. You can't always feel safe. You must show consistent pitching for at least 5 years. I think I shouldn't lose my position now. Personally, if I get greedy about the number of wins, the season will not go well. “I will prepare well for next season with the thought that if I fill the required number of innings and do not get injured, my results will catch up,” he said emphatically.
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Tuesday, January 16, 2024