“I want to be the best player in the world!” Jang Hyun-seok’s bold challenge to ML

August 4, 2023 | by

“I want to be the best player in the world.”

Jang Hyun-seok (19-Masan Yongmago), the “high school’s biggest word” for his goals and dreams, was as bold as his pitching style.

Jang gave up two runs on two hits with one walk and three strikeouts in one inning against Daegu Sangwon High School in the second game of the 57th Presidential High School Baseball Tournament at Mokdong Baseball Stadium in Seoul on Thursday. Masan Yongmago used a big fifth inning to win 10-5 and advance to the round of 16. They will face Daejeon Go tomorrow (May 5) at 11 a.m. at the same venue in the round of 16.

It wasn’t a satisfying pitching performance, as he threw a variety of pitches, including a fastball, slider, curveball, changeup, and sweeper, reaching as high as 154 kilometers per hour. Jang entered with runners on first and second in the bottom of the eighth inning with Masan Yongmago leading 10-1. Facing a cleanup of Kang Tae-wan, Seok Seung-min (pinch-hitter), and Park Do-gun, Jang fired a 152-kilometer-per-hour fastball to the first batter, but gave up a wild pitch and a walk to put runners on second and third. He struck out Seok Seung-min for the first out, and another wild pitch allowed Park Do-gun to score from third. He then struck out Park Do-gun with a curveball, but gave up a double to center to Ahn Jun-sang and a single to left to Nam Tae-woong to cut the deficit to 5-10. Shin Won-hyeop struck out swinging to end the long eighth inning, but he walked off the field in disappointment.

In a postgame interview, Jang Hyun-seok said, “After the Cheongnyonggi, I rested and threw few pitches, so I didn’t expect to throw perfectly. But I didn’t expect it to be this bad,” he said, adding, “I’m going to forget about today’s game and play with a fresh mind because I have a game tomorrow.”

This was Jang Hyun-seok’s first appearance in the major leagues after he decided to try out for the major leagues instead of submitting his KBO draft application through his management company. “I wanted to play in both the KBO and Major League Baseball, but I wanted to try my hand at the best stage in the world. My last dream has always been the Major League Baseball,” Jang said. “My goal is to work as hard as I can and get called up to the big leagues as soon as possible.”

He denied that he had said he would stay in South Korea. “I never definitively said I would stay in Korea. I was open to the possibility of playing in either the KBO or Major League Baseball, but it seems to have gotten out of hand,” he said. “I’m not overwhelmed by the attention and spotlight I’m getting right now, but I’m not letting go of it either. For now, I’m just thinking about playing hard.”

Jang is the only amateur on the Korean baseball team for the 2022 Hangzhou Asian Games next month. “When I was first told I was selected, I was really happy. I’ve never been lucky enough to make the national team, so I received a lot of congratulations. I remember being so happy that my hair was white,” he said, adding, “I want to show that I’m confident on the mound as much as I’ve been selected.”

Like most players these days, Jang Hyun-seok is used to watching baseball videos on YouTube. He is more interested in the major leagues than the KBO, and cites Darvish Yu (San Diego) as his role model. Among KBO players, he mentioned Moon Dong-ju (21-Hanwha Eagles) as a player he would like to watch.

“Darvish’s pitching style has changed a lot during his career, and it’s impressive that he throws short and hard and is the team’s ace,” Jang said. “I like a lot of American players, and (among Korean players) I would like to see Moon Dong-ju, because he has a fastball, but he’s doing a very good job as the number one starter for Hanwha, and that’s cool.”

His goal for the rest of the year is to finish at the top of the high school tournament with his friends. When asked what kind of player he wants to be, he had a grandiose goal. “I want to be the best player in the world,” he said, adding, “If I was only thinking about myself, I might not throw. I also want to do well with my friends and win the championship, so I told the coach that I would pitch for the team. This time, I will pitch for the team 안전놀이터.”


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