Choi Won-jun said, “There’s no excuse if you can’t do it now.”

Professional baseball KIA Tigers manager Lee Bum-ho and batting coach Hong Se-wan cited outfielder Choi Won-joon as the key to the 2024 lineup. Choi Won-joon laughed, saying, “I think you’re doing it because I’m not sure about it,” but the diagnosis is that if he actually shows 174 hits and 40 steals in the 2023 season, his scoring ability will explode.

Expectations were high for last year’s season, but the performance was not as good as expected. It was the performance that former coach Kim Jong-kook had awaited the most. As soon as he was discharged from the military service at Sangmu, he returned in early June. It was not a blow that bombed the Futures League. He had a batting average of 25.5 with one homer, 23 RBIs and 13 steals in 67 games, 0.672 with OPS (on-base plus slugging) and a batting average of 0.328 with scorers.

In an interview with OSEN, Choi Won-joon said, “At the beginning of last year, my shoulders were a little bad, so it was difficult to prepare. He returned without being established in various ways and was psychologically chased because the results were not released. I settled down as an outfielder after exploring various positions as a rookie, but suddenly I saw the first baseman and I felt psychological pressure.”

He was selected as a wild card to represent the Hangzhou Asian Games. He was hurt when he was hit in the calf by a pitch during a training session. He couldn’t even take a batter’s box, and only his teammates cheered him on. “I was playing base running on the first base, but there was no protection net. I kept an eye on the batting training, but I couldn’t avoid it because the fastball flew so fast. I needed to take a break, but I was moving as long as my bones didn’t break,” he said. “Then it hurt more.” After returning to Korea, he was diagnosed with fascia damage and finished the season as it was.

Unfortunately, the season ended but the team immediately started preparing for 2024. “First of all, I recovered 100 percent and focused on weight training. I had to wait until now, but I realized the importance of weight training after seeing Seong-beom. As I made up my mind and followed along, I changed my body a lot. My strength has improved and my body has grown.” (At the spring camp) the coach and the batting coach said that my swing and batting have strengthened and accelerated,” he said with a smile.

Unlike last year, he had a fruitful spring camp, and gained confidence in his batting performance. He recorded a batting average of 385. “I did this and that in the second half of last year due to poor performance. I went back to my bad performance as a rookie. The coach and the coach said, “I like what I’ve done, what I’ve prepared, and what I’ve done so far. It’s different from last year.” He convinced me, “Go as it is,” and my batting performance improved.”

There is another reason why expectations are high for Choi this year, along with heavy training such as bulk-up. He married a built-in outfielder, and is also manager Lee Bum-ho. It is an environment that gives sense of stability to players both in play and psychology. Lee Bum-ho has virtually chosen a center fielder, and he has been giving consideration to his team’s ability to play baseball in various ways. At the end of the year, he created a sense of responsibility by setting up a family with Fiancé.

“Playing outdoors can give the best of my strengths. I played in the right field twice full time. He was mostly a right fielder, but there was no problem in center field defense as well. The manager is very comfortable, too. He still seems like a senior to me,” he said. “After getting married, I feel more secure. I am psychologically obsessive and sensitive, but he takes care of me and releases me well,” he said, expressing special gratitude.

That’s why I want to get good results even for my coach and wife. “I think this year is the best year for me as I have been training for camp since my debut. I want to enjoy it. I think the team can also produce good results. There are plays that I can play to help the team win the championship. I want to focus on that. If I get 150 hits and 30 stolen bases in the first 30 minutes, the team will win the championship,” he said, setting his goal.

Choi Won-joon had no hits in six times at bat and struck out three times in an exhibition game against the NC Dinos from the 9th to the 10th. The cycle is falling at least once. As he prepared better than any other year, he is expected to play in the opening game in a scary manner in 2021. Bulk-ups, built-in outfielders, and comfortable environments created by his wife and coach are conditions to produce the best results. Maybe that’s why he laughed, saying, “I don’t think there’s any excuse if I can’t do it now.”

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