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"Peraza dances."

The Hanwha Eagles are seeing the effect of recruiting ace pitcher Ryu Hyun-jin (37) both inside and outside the stadium. The Eagles persuaded Ryu, who was agonizing over staying in the U.S. Major League, and signed an eight-year contract worth a total of 17 billion won (17 million U.S. dollars). The 17 billion won is the highest amount in KBO history, and this year's annual salary of 2.5 billion won is the highest ever for a pitcher. Ryu, who debuted in the KBO league in 2006, is in his 19th year as a professional player this year. He also tied the record of 2.5 billion won in salary set by Lotte Giants pitcher Lee Dae-ho (currently retired) in 2019.

The reason why Hanwha invested such a large amount of money is because it has the biggest reinforcement of the mound, but it wanted to become a leader who leads the team on and off the field. Coldly, it is true that until last year, Hanwha lacked players who could serve as a focal point as it formed a team mainly of young players. This is why it recruited An Chi-hong (34) as an FA this year after Chae Eun-sung (34) last year, and actively brought veterans such as Kim Kang-min (42) and Lee Jae-won (37).

Ryu has quickly established himself as the leader that Hanwha had hoped for. Younger player Noh Si-hwan (24) hinted that the atmosphere in the locker room has brightened since Ryu joined the team. When Ryu plays loud music in the entire locker room under Ryu's direction, excited foreign players Jonathan Peraza (26) and Ricardo Sanchez (27) begin to dance

"Ryu Hyun-jin seems to play pranks on younger players more than I expected," Roh told reporters at Hanwha Life Eagles Park in Daejeon on Wednesday. He is quiet when playing baseball, but he seems to play pranks a lot outside the stadium and get along with younger players well. I think I can live in a comfortable atmosphere. I also talk to younger players during preparation before the game."

Before the game, Ryu told players to turn on the volume when they are gathered in the locker room. When reporters asked if Ryu was playing the music himself, Noh replied, "He asked me to play it," and when asked again, "Do you ask Jang Min-jae (known as Ryu Hyun-jin's closest junior) to play it?" Noh immediately replied, "Yes, yes."

"In the past, I would prepare for a game 50 minutes before a game and roughly leave the game," Noh said. "After Ryu Hyun-jin comes, I play loud music in the locker room to help me prepare well. I think most of the music is EDM. He seems to raise tension with his bouncing music. I usually listen to pop songs or exciting music before a game. Perazaar dances. Sanchez and other friends dance. Thanks to this, the locker room is cheerful."

After completing his training from spring camp to exhibition games, Ryu frequently eats with his juniors and tries to get acquainted with them when he has time. He gathers the juniors who are available on the day and takes them to the restaurant, and of course, Ryu pays for it.

Hanwha pitcher Kim Min-woo (29) said, "(Ryu) Hyun-jin keeps buying meals to pitchers. In Daejeon as well, he got a few people who had time to eat and bought me eel last time. He bought me some really expensive and delicious eel," Ryu said.

Of course, juniors who are much older than Ryu still feel distant. So is Kim Min-woo. "Actually, he is a difficult senior. I think it is difficult to ask him something because he has to train seriously to match his physical condition. I spent time talking about eels when eating them," Kim said with a smile.

Ryu took off his Hanwha uniform after the 2012 season, and played in the U.S. Major League from 2013 to last year. Now that Ryu, who is a distant senior to Hanwha's main players, has left Korea for 12 years, he may need a little more time to get closer. Ryu is actively trying to reduce the time, and it seems that such feelings are being conveyed well to his juniors.

Ryu is actively approaching his fans as he encourages his juniors. When he decided to return to Hanwha, his fans cheered him up so enthusiastically, and he also recorded a record of selling out both of the opening two consecutive games against the Samsung Lions held at his home stadium on the 9th and 10th. To express his gratitude to his fans, Ryu held a mini-signing event on his way home from work after the games on the 9th and the 10th. He gave autographs and selfies to fans waiting in an orderly line for two consecutive days before leaving the stadium.

Ryu took the mound at Daejeon on Wednesday to hear the cheers of Hanwha fans for the first time in a while. He started an exhibition game against the Kia Tigers and pitched well in four innings, allowing 62 pitches, three hits, no hits, no walks, and allowing one run with three strikeouts. He allowed consecutive hits to Lee Woo-sung and Kim Do-young in the first inning, but he tied up Kia's batters with his ball control. He penetrated the border line accurately and was hit by a pitch that hit his body.

Ryu said, "I had fun throwing the ball. When I took the mound, I felt happy because the cheers were loud. Even though it was an exhibition game, many people came to see me, and I think many people are waiting for me even after the game. I think I have to work hard."

"(The mini-signing event) is still okay. I'm thankful that you keep waiting. It's hard to do that when the regular season starts, but now that it's an exhibition game and the game ends early, I think I'm taking my time to sign autographs."

After announcing his contract with the Hanwha Eagles, Ryu has faithfully fulfilled his mission for the past 20 days. With the spotlight pouring on Ryu, interest in the Hanwha Eagles as a whole is naturally growing. Players can feel burdened by this kind of attention, but now they are enjoying the enthusiastic support of their fans. Lee Jae-won said, "It feels like a postseason game," adding, "It feels like a postseason game."

Now, the only thing left is to maintain a good atmosphere until the regular season. To do so, performance is the most important thing. Ryu Hyun-jin is steadily building up his body, aiming to play in the opening game of the regular season against the LG Twins in Jamsil on the 23rd. Hanwha has four starters from Ryu Hyun-jin, Felix Peña, Moon Dong-ju and Sanchez, and has a variety of cards in the bullpen, including Joo Hyun-sang, Park Sang-won, Kim Bum-soo, Han Seung-hyuk, Lee Tae-yang and Kim Ki-joong. If Noh Si-hwan, Chae Eun-sung, Peraza, and An Chi-hong are in the center, they will be able to show off their outstanding firepower compared to last year.

Lee Jae-won said, "First of all, the atmosphere is very good. I think I am moving in harmony with that atmosphere. I have high expectations for this season because Hyun-jin, the pillar of pitchers, is here, and Eun-sung Chae plays a big part in the fielders," adding, "I am sure Ryu's effect will be huge."
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Wednesday, March 13, 2024
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