Lee Yong-joon, who graduated from Jungjung Elementary School, Yangcheon Middle School, and Seoul Design High School, is a right-handed pitcher with heavy fastballs, sharp sliders, and stable game management skills. In the second round of 2021, he entered the professional league as the 16th overall pick by NC.
Lee Yong-joon, who had not won a single game until last year, had a meaningful time this year. He entered the starting lineup early in the season, taking advantage of a gap due to Taylor Widener’s injury. In the match against the Changwon KT Wiz on April 12, his first start, he even won the first professional first-team match with four hits, two outs, three strikeouts and one run in five innings.
Lee Yong-joon, who gained momentum, continued to rotate the starting rotation by showing good pitching every day until early May. The performance was so great that the story of the Rookie of the Year was once mentioned.
Lee Yong-joon, who met during NC’s CAMP 1 (finishing training), which was recently completed, said, “I was confident about this period. In fact, I didn’t enter the starting rotation from the beginning, but Widener joined because he was injured, he said. “I wanted to have fun because I liked the starting lineup itself rather than thinking I should do well.” I worked hard without thinking about it, but the results were good,” he said.
However, Lee Yong-joon’s rise began to slow down in mid-May. I lost my stamina, and my lack of experience also held me back. After several readjustments in the Futures (second-tier) league since then, he took the mound mainly as a bullpen pitcher in the second half. His final performance this season was 3 wins, 4 losses and 4.30 ERA in 24 games (67 innings and 12 starts).
Lee Yong-joon said, “The mental difficulty lasted for a long time. The coaches advised me that there were times when I fell, but the bad results were repeated as I kept thinking “You have to do well,” adding, “Coach Jeon Hyung-do also said, ‘I always think your ball is good.’ In the first half, he tried to fight the batters, but in the second half, he seems to be shrinking. He said, “Why don’t you do it with confidence?” Looking back now, I think I was fighting myself rather than the batters in the second half of the year, he said.
Although the good trend did not last, Lee Yong-joon, who achieved a meaningful enough performance during the regular league. In particular, he faced an unforgettable moment in autumn baseball. In Game 4 of the playoffs against KT, NC had a chance to take the mound in the top of the sixth inning, trailing 0-8. Unfortunately, the results were not good with five hits, one home run, two outs, and three strikeouts in three innings, including a solo shot to the left by Anthony Alford, but he gained valuable experience.
Lee Yong-joon said, “I joined (entry) from the playoffs, and I remembered when I was young. “When I was young, I wanted to play a lot while watching fall baseball on TV,” he said. “After playing playoffs, I knew why the best players wanted to go to the Korean Series. The atmosphere was different and grand. The feeling was completely different,” he nodded.
In the meantime, he said, “It was my first win when I played with KT this year. KT’s batting lineup had a lot of right-handed hitters, so when I was in my prime, I had a good performance with my slider, he said. “Compared to the regular league, if the batters felt like they were hitting once they got used to (the batting order) round, I felt they were playing together in the bottom of the ninth inning from the first at-bat in the fall baseball.” “When I went to the mound, my concentration (of the opposing players) itself was different,” he explained.
Lee Yong-joon continued, “When I went up, the score difference was a lot behind. The coach also said, “I wish I could feel the postseason,” adding, “I also thought of doing what I wanted to do in this situation rather than throwing well.” I threw it because it was a big stage and when would there be such an opportunity in baseball life. “I hit a home run at that time, but it remains a good memory,” he said.
Especially during the postseason, the support of many fans helped Lee Yong-joon a lot. Fans filled the stadium for the first fall baseball game at Changwon NC Park. NC unfortunately failed to sell out in the wild-card game against the Doosan Bears at home and the third semi-playoff against the SSG Landers, but led the crowd of 10,000 for two consecutive days in the third and fourth playoff games.
Lee Yong-joon said, “When I played fall baseball, my heart jumped every time I saw a lot of spectators. Many fans liked it because we were good at baseball. Next year, I will try to get more spectators to come to “Enpak (Changwon NC Park),” he said, clenched his two fists.
He then said, “From the opening entry to the fall baseball. I think I learned a lot from this season. “I think this experience will be of great help next season,” he added.
Lee Yong-joon’s position in the 2024 season is likely to be a starting pitcher. NC manager Kang In-kwon said, “I have a lot of worries about setting up the starting lineup. “I’m thinking about it,” he said, adding, “Lee Yong-joon is also a candidate.” Here, Lee Yong-joon is also comfortable in selecting.
“I experienced both the starter and bullpen, and it was definitely better and more fun to start,” he said. “I have a lot of good memories when I started.”
To this end, Lee Yong-joon was sweating with the goal of improving his skills in CAMP 1 after the season. “I had a meeting with the coach and the data team to figure out what I lacked and what I needed to improve. “I trained accordingly and made a routine,” he said. “I tried to upgrade the breaking ball by consulting the coach. “I’m trying to do better in the mental part next year,” he said.
In addition, Lee Yong-joon said, “In the first half of this year, we will continue to do well in the spring camp and do well next season.” If you have started half of this year, you want to start more games next year than this year. “I want to stand on the mound of the first team more.”
Lee’s best teammate is Choi Sung-young. Choi Sung-young is a left-hander who played all-weather this year and recorded 5 wins, 4 losses and a 4.86 ERA in 18 games (66.2 innings, 13 starts).
Lee Yong-joon said, “All the seniors took good care of me, but Sung-young (Choi) is the senior who shared the same joy and sorrow when I was in trouble. Unfortunately, when there was a gap in the selection team, I supported it as a long-relief, and when Sung-young (Choi) selected, I was a long-relief. Sung-young is like a real brother to me,” he said, expressing his friendliness.
At the recently concluded Asian Professional Baseball Championship (APBC) 2023, NC produced four national teams: Shin Min-hyuk and Kim Young-kyu (pitcher), Kim Joo-won (striker), and Kim Hyung-joon (striker). Their performance is another motivation for Lee Yong-joon.
Lee Yong-joon said, “Honestly, I got greedy. A national team is a dream for an athlete. My goal in baseball was to play for the national team as well. It was cool to see them go and do it, he said. “(Kim) Joo-won made three hits in the match against Taiwan, and it was cool.” I don’t usually say that, but I said, “Well done today.” It was cool,’ he said. I thought I wanted to run with these players. “I heard that if you play in an international competition, you can grow one step further,” he said.
The NC club believes in Lee Yong-joon’s growth. Lee Yong-joon is currently participating in a driving line camp in Tokyo, Japan, with the help of the club, along with Shin Young-woo and Seo Eui-tae. Lee Yong-joon’s dream, which is attracting so much attention, is to establish himself as a starting pitcher who gives solid faith.
“I’m confident in fastball, and I think it’s my advantage to enjoy fighting with batters on the mound,” he said, adding, “I want to become a more stable starter next year based on this year’s experience.”
SK-turned-executive → Kium fan motive → successor has been elected, ‘150km’ for a reason for the reserve
For baseball players, active military service is considered the most difficult form of service to maintain their skills. However, Cho Young-gun (24, Kiwoom Heroes) showed off his better physical condition than before joining the military, raising expectations for the 2024 season.
Cho Young-gun is a right-hander who graduated from Daejeon Shinheung Elementary School, Chungnam Middle School, and Baeksong High School and joined the 14th place in the second round of the rookie draft in 2019. He was a promising player in the team that received a chance to start in 2020, but he did not leave a clear result and solved the military problem first in February 2022.
He played a surprise role at the end of the season after being discharged from the military in August this year. He finished the 2023 season without losing a point by striking out every game except for the last game (against SSG on October 13) with five hits, two walks and seven ⅔ in six games and seven innings. Although the sample is small, it is positive considering that it is a return to the first team in two years. It was even more encouraging in that pitchers who finished their active service had difficulty in performing as before.
Among those six games, it was nice to take the mound in the top of the seventh inning against the Gocheok Samsung Lions on October 10 and catch Jose Pirella with a fastball of 147 kilometers per hour. He was a pitcher who threw an average speed of 142.4 kilometers per hour and a maximum of 150 kilometers per hour when it was the best in Stattiz standards, but in 2021, his average fastball speed dropped to 137.6 kilometers, which was the decisive reason for Cho Young-gun’s enlistment.
Fortunately, after being discharged from the military, Cho Young-gun was able to shoot the maximum speed of 150 km/h again, and he was in a special unit environment in the background. Cho Young-gun completed his service in the 3rd Corps located in Inje, Gangwon-do. He enlisted as an active player in the team and took care of basic things such as training programs, but it was difficult to train in the unit as much as in the profession. This is because there are parts of space and facilities, but the understanding of surrounding comrades and troops is also required.
Cho Young-gun didn’t have to worry about that part. Cho Young-gun, who met at the wrap-up camp in Wonju, Gangwon Province in November, said, “Unexpectedly, my life in the military felt really short. There were many people who liked baseball in the unit. Among the executives, there was a boss Jeon Bin-soo (No. 6 in the fourth round of the second rookie draft in 2008), who played for SK in the past, and among the successors, there was a former baseball player, so he was helped by working out together.”
He continued, “There are many Kiwoom fans among my motives, so we all watched the Kiwoom game together in the living room. Watching it, I was motivated to “I want to play as soon as possible.” “I used my personal time to do weight training very hard, and as a result, I lost a lot of weight and was able to be discharged healthy while increasing my muscle mass,” he explained.
However, the biggest income was a little away from the life that was buried only in baseball and broadened his perspective and thinking. Cho Young-gun’s two years in the military, confidently saying, “I feel like I’ve really served in the military well,” was “putting it down.” “Before going to the army, I wanted to be in the first team and I felt like I had to look good in the team, so I had a lot of pressure to do well. So I made a lot of mistakes and couldn’t show myself, he said. “I met people outside of baseball for the first time in the unit (that way).”
“After living with ordinary people and listening to their thoughts, I also learned that there is a direction other than baseball. As a result, I wanted to play baseball more and missed it. Since then, I felt more desperate about baseball, so I worked hard, and I was also stimulated to see my close friends born in 1999 doing well in the first division,” he added.
On this day, Kiwoom finishes its closing camp for about a month. Cho Young-gun focused all his energy on strengthening basic skills such as quick motion, set position, and slide step, which were lacking because he could not play in the actual game at this camp, and polishing the third pitch, curve. If the skill level of the curve increases, I think it is possible to make more use of fastballs and sliders, which are advantages. Pitcher coach Lee Seung-ho, who watched Cho Young-gun’s training, said, “I felt that I was getting better in the future, as well as the part where I was using my strength. At the moment, I only show my strengths and try to see them again,” he praised.
The growth of Cho Young-gun, a returning reserve, is also important for Kiwoom. In December this year, the Kiwoom mound is virtually devastated, with ace Ahn Woo-jin (24) joining the social service, left-hander Lee Seung-ho (24) joining the active duty, and right-hander Seung-jo Kim Sung-jin (26) joining the active duty. In a situation where nothing is certain, Cho Young-gun is considered to play an important role in the mound reorganization along with Kim Joon-hyung (21). Coach Hong Won-ki, who watched Cho Young-gun’s pitching in Wonju, said, “I joined the team at the end of this season and helped our mound a lot, and through that, I had expectations that Cho Young-gun could play an important role next year.”
The reserve, who only has to do well now, is also determined. Cho Young-gun said, “The goal is to stay in the first team for a long time in any position. Since elementary school, my dream was to be a first-team player on TV. “My goal for next season is to finish the season in the first division without going down to the second division all season for that dream,” he said.