Choi Ji-hoon has vowed to play baseball like never before

SSG Landers’ Choi Ji-hoon (27) has vowed to play baseball like never before.

Choi went 1-for-2 with a double, a home run, a run scored, a walk and two stolen bases in an exhibition game against the Tung Yi Lions of the Taiwan Professional Baseball League at the Tainan City Municipal Baseball Stadium in Tainan, Taiwan.

Choi, who popped out to center field in the top of the first inning, drew a bases-loaded walk to put SSG up 2-0 in the second inning. He then stole second base to put runners on second and third and scored on a double by Go Myung-joon.

Choi Ji-hoon led off the fourth inning with a single. He then stole his second base of the game to put runners in scoring position and was replaced by a bases-loaded walk to end the game. SSG won the game 12-3 and won their second straight exhibition game.

Now in his fifth professional season, Choi is batting .275 (1958-for-538) with 18 home runs, 163 RBIs, 299 runs scored, 96 doubles, and a .707 OPS in 524 KBO games. He had his best season in 2022, when he batted .789 with 10 home runs, 61 RBIs, 93 runs scored, 31 doubles and an OPS of .789 in 144 games (569 at-bats, 173 hits), but struggled in the regular season last year, batting .268 with two home runs, 30 RBIs, 65 runs scored, 21 doubles and an OPS of .672 in 117 games (462 at-bats, 124 hits) while playing in various international tournaments, including the World Baseball Classic (WBC), Hangzhou Asian Games and Asian Professional Baseball Championship (APBC).

Looking to rebound this season,

Choi said in a pregame interview, “I asked a lot of advice from the coaches and bothered the head of the power analysis team. He watches us from behind every game, so I asked him about the points when I did well. This year, I focused on my strengths. After my ankle injury, my balance was off a lot, so I thought, “Let’s just work on that in Florida. I think I’m ready to go,” he said. “I don’t think I’m ever satisfied. Even in yesterday’s scrimmage, I personally didn’t feel bad at the plate, but everybody got a hit except me. I don’t know if I prepared well or badly until the season is over,” he added.

Lee said he will use Choi Ji-hoon in the leadoff spot this season. Choi batted just 2-for-27 (122 at-bats) with one home run and nine RBIs in the No. 1 spot last season, 스포츠토토 but Lee said, “When Shin-soo Choo retires, Choi should eventually take over the leadoff spot. When I had a meeting with Choi, I said, ‘Let’s think about taking the leadoff position one year early,’ and he said he was fine with it,” explaining why he chose Choi to lead off.

“I think I’m the same as a No. 2 hitter as a No. 1 hitter. There are some things that the No. 1 hitter has to prepare a little faster, but that’s only in the first inning, and after that, it’s the same. I’m trying to be comfortable, and the manager and coaches are helping me to be comfortable as well.”

Lee expressed his desire to play a fast-paced baseball that keeps pace with the KBO’s rule changes

SSG has been playing big ball with home run hitters, but Lee believes that the team should also play running baseball. However, the team does not yet have many players who can play such baseball.

Choi Ji-hoon is currently the only hitter on SSG’s roster who can play running baseball. Last season, SSG ranked seventh in the league with 96 team stolen bases, 21 of which were stolen by Choi. He led the team in stolen bases. That’s why coach Lee has no choice but to use him.

“The manager and coach really put my mind at ease, so all I have to do is live up to their expectations,” he said. “He said, ‘Do what you want to do, if you want to play, play, if you don’t want to play, don’t play.’ That’s really encouraging for a player. As a player, that’s very reassuring. As a joke, I told my coach that I would run 100 times and die 50 times. This year, I’m going to try harder,” he laughed.

Choi Ji-hoon said, “We have a lot of hitters who can hit home runs. So I thought that only those players get recognized. Of course, I have to play hard, but sometimes I thought, ‘What’s the point of playing alone,’ but now I’ll be able to let go of the reins. I’m going to keep running around like an unleashed colt,” he said.

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