KIA Tigers’ “hot potato” Choi Won-jun, 26, will be a starting member of the KBO’s first team from day one. His positions are No. 2 hitter and first baseman. The mitt belongs to senior Hwang Dae-in (27).
KIA head coach Kim Jong-kook announced his starting lineup for the 2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO League regular season away game against the Kiwoom Heroes at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul on Wednesday.
KIA’s starting lineup is Ryu Ji-hyuk (third base), Choi Won-joon (first base), Socrates Brito (center field), Choi Hyung-woo (designated hitter), Kim Sun-bin (second base), Ko Jong-wook (left field), Lee Woo-sung (right field), Shin Beom-soo (catcher), and Park Chan-ho (shortstop). The starting pitcher was Yang Hyun-jong.
The most notable addition was outfielder Choi Won-jun, who returned to the team the previous day (Dec. 12) after serving about a year and a half of military service in the Armed Forces Athletic Corps (Commerce). The outfielder, who was fixed in the outfield and developed into a starter under former manager Matt Williams in the 2020-2021 season, played first base for the first time in 1446 days since June 28, 2019, against Suwon KT.
Before the game, KIA manager Kim Jong-guk said, “I saw him after he left the military, and his face looks younger and his body is slimmer. The home field is not even a dome, but it was very white.” He laughed and welcomed his return, saying, “I think he prepared well for his return and was discharged from the military.”
As expected, he will play first base to strengthen the offense. This is because first base is virtually untouched, while the outfield is dominated by Socrates, Choi Hyung-woo, Lee Woo-sung, Ko Jong-wook, and Lee Chang-jin. They don’t play third base or any other position. “Won-jun only plays first base and the outfield,” Kim said. He doesn’t play any other positions. His favorite position is right field, but he can also play left field or center field because we have Na Sung-bum there. In the second half of the game, we might use Won in the outfield and (Kim) Kyu-sung at first base to strengthen our defense,” he said.
In front of the press for the first time in a long time, Choi Won-jun laughed off coach Kim Jong-kook’s joke about his “white face,” saying, “The sunscreen is working well,” before adding, “The whole place still doesn’t feel real. I can’t get used to it. I wasn’t expecting to play the day after I got out. I’ve been in the military for a year and a half, so I’m not used to the outside world.”
He continued, “Actually, I was at KIA for longer, but I felt like I was traded because I was in the commercial department for a year and a half, so I feel more attached to it now and I still feel like I’m at home, so it’s a little hard to adjust. I’m a little bit confused,” he said honestly.
He wasn’t too worried about playing first base. At the request of the KIA team, he started playing first base a week before his transfer, and since he didn’t have a first baseman’s mitt, he borrowed Hwang Dae-in’s to practice. “It’s been four or five years since I played first base, but my body remembered. I didn’t have a first base glove, so I used my brother’s. I couldn’t ask my brother directly, so I took what he gave to someone else,” he said. “I felt good that my brothers were doing well (in the outfield), and I didn’t think that I would play in the outfield when I was discharged. My brothers were doing well, so it made me work harder to prepare. So it was really nice to see them out there,” he added.토토사이트
After weighing more than 90 kilograms, he brought his weight down to 81-82 kilograms before his return. Unlike last year, when he focused on his performance, this year, when he moved up in the ranks, he tried different batting forms to improve his long ball. Now he just wants to be really good. “If I do say so myself, I feel like I’ve matured a lot in my personality, lifestyle, and as a person. In the past, I was active in a good way, but I was just a bratty person. When I was younger, I was not cool and just did what I was told, but now I am a person who can think a little deeper,” he explained.
“I used to imagine wearing a KIA jersey and hearing the fans cheering for me every night before I went to bed for a year and a half. I did it every single day, so I think it will be very emotional to hear it after a long time,” he said, looking forward to meeting the fans.