The “Blue Blooded Ace” Won Tae-in (Samsung) had one of the busiest years of his professional career last year. He participated in the fifth World Baseball Classic (WBC) before the start of the regular season and was named to the national team for the Hangzhou Asian Games in October. When the regular season ended, there was no time to rest. He was on a plane to Tokyo as part of the Asian Professional Baseball Championship (APBC) team. It was hard on both his body and mind, but he grew stronger as he experienced the international stage.
“I’m in great shape right now because I’ve had a lot of rest,” Won said when we met at the Gyeongbuk High School baseball field on the 25th. My parents are worried that I threw a lot last year, but I’m fine. I started playing catch this week after not touching the ball for nearly two months.”
Samsung focused on strengthening its pitching staff in the offseason. It acquired Kim Jae-yoon and Lim Chang-min in the free agent market and brought in Choi Sung-hoon and Yang Hyun through the second round of the draft. It was successful in retaining internal free agents Oh Seung-hwan and Kim Dae-woo. The starting pitching staff is well-stocked. “I think it will be a big help to have more pitchers behind me. I think I’ll feel more relaxed when I come down from my mission,” he smiled.
Life is a series of meetings and partings. It’s a shame that she had to part ways with David Buchanan, who she was with until last year. On social media, Won said, “I’ve always been busy following him. It is very sad to see the player who taught me so much and influenced my growth the most in the past four years leave, but we support and respect each other no matter where we are, so I promise to finish well and without injury so that when we meet again, I will be the player you expect from me and more.”
He added: “It’s a shame. It’s no exaggeration to say that he’s been one of the biggest influences on my growth. We had a lot of conversations, I learned a lot, we became really close, and I’m just sad that we won’t be together anymore. I’m going to work hard on what I’ve learned, and I hope to make a good impact on the younger players by passing on Buchanan’s know-how.”
Foreign pitchers Connor Seabold (registered name Connor) and Danny Reyes have joined the team. As they are new to the domestic stage, they come with question marks. Won Tae-in’s role has become even more important, and it is expected that his familiarity with foreign players will help the new members of the team settle into the domestic scene.
“I always have a sense of responsibility. I know I have to do better because Ace Buchanan left. Connor and Reyes are new, and as the same starter, I want to help them settle in well and create synergy. If we do that, the team will be stronger.” Won concludes.
Tae-in Won, Shohei Otani (Los Angeles Dodgers), and Ha-seong Kim (San Diego Padres) are featured on the promotional poster for the Major League Baseball (MLB) World Tour Seoul Series 2024. The national team will play practice games against the San Diego Padres on the 17th and the LA Dodgers on the 18th.
Won said, “I was surprised to see myself next to Ohtani. It would be great if they picked me for the national team. It would be a great experience for me to get a chance to pitch then. It would be a great experience to pitch against players who are playing in the major leagues. I gave up a high four-pitch count against Ohtani in the WBC Japan, so if I get the chance to pitch against him this time, I’ll try to make up for it regardless of the result.”
The KBO has made a number of changes this season, including the introduction of an automated pitch judgment system (ABS), also known as a “robot umpire,” as well as increasing base sizes and limiting defensive shifts.
“Honestly, it might be a disadvantage for pitchers, but it’s important to adapt well. When I experienced (the robot umpires) in the APBC practice games, I definitely felt that the strike zone was smaller. I think it will be important to pay more attention to my pitches and adapt to the strike zone quickly,” he said.
Won Tae-in, born in the Year of the Dragon in 2000, said, “Hearing that (this is the Year of the Dragon) makes me want to do better, and I have a feeling that good energy will come my way. I won’t be too greedy, but if I work hard, maybe I’ll get a little lucky. I’m preparing hard so that I can perform well without any injuries,” he said.