“I want to be the best player in the world.”
Jang Hyun-seok (19-Masan Yongmago), the “biggest word in high school” when it comes to talking about 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 Sangwongo in the round of 16 tomorrow (May 5) at 11 a.m. at the same venue.
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 also clarified that there was no truth to the rumors that he would stay in Korea. “I never said that I would stay in Korea,” Jang said. I was open to the possibility of going in either direction, whether it’s the KBO or the major leagues, but it seems to have gotten out of hand,” he said. “I’m not overwhelmed by the attention and 스포츠토토 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 fortunate 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 can do well on the mound with confidence as I was selected.”