“No matter who jumps, we can catch them all.”
KIA Tigers selected 10 players in the 2024 rookie draft. In the first round, they selected Cho Dae-hyun, a right-handed pitcher from Gangneung High School, and in the second (third round), they boldly selected Lee Sang-jun (Gyeonggi High School), the top ranked high school catcher. He was selected as the highest ranked catcher. Expectations for Lee Sang-jun are that high.
On the 8th,스포츠토토 Lee Sang-jun gave his first greeting to the audience along with his prospective classmates at the Gwangju-Kia Champions Field. On this day, as it was a holiday, about 16,000 spectators came and gave a round of applause to the prospective rookies’ strong determination. He even caught the first pitch from his father, who raised him as a baseball player. It was a meaningful first greeting as he pledged to become the best professional catcher.
Lee Sang-jun, who visited the press room after the event, was a catcher at first glance. He had a sturdy body weighing over 100 kg and seemed like he could catch any ball. “It was an honor for KIA to nominate my name. KIA is a strong team. They have won the championship 11 times and they are always winning when I turn on the TV. Today, when I received the uniform size and equipment and greeted them, I thought that I had become a professional. I think the uniform suits me well. (First pitch) “I thought my dad would throw a fastball, but he threw a curveball, so I was embarrassed,” he said with a laugh.
KIA suddenly became a catcher’s kingdom. Veteran Kim Tae-gun was recruited through a trade, and 2018 first-round draft pick Han Jun-su has grown rapidly following his discharge from the military, supporting him as the second catcher. Next year, Kwon Hyuk-kyung will return after completing his military service. The reason KIA selected Lee Sang-jun is that he has a strong arm that can compete with professional catchers. In order for Lee Sang-jun to become a first-team catcher, he must put in a lot of effort, time, and overcome competition.
Lee Sang-jun showed strong confidence in his defense. “I will do well with pride because I was selected much earlier than other catchers. I have arms that can catch anyone who jumps, and I can block and catch any ball no matter where it lands. I will learn technique and stamina management know-how in the pros, and how to lead pitchers. I will learn how to lead pitchers.” “I want to learn. I’ve seen him since this year, and his defense and batting look stable,” he said.
In terms of batting, Na Seong-beom was chosen as a role model. “Defense comes first, but if you want to play in the first team, you also have to be good at batting. As a batsman, I want to learn from senior Na Seong-beop. He doesn’t seem to have any ups and downs. He’s not the type of player who goes from being too bad to being too good. That’s why I respect him.” At the same time, when asked about his strategy for catching Na Seong-beom as a catcher, he confidently said, “First, I will make the bat follow (with a manned pitch) and catch it.”
Surprisingly, weight management was listed as the top priority. The reason his batting performance was poor this year was due to a failure in weight management. “Managing my weight is the first thing. I failed to manage it this year. I had a hard time in the summer and went up to 108kg. As a professional, I only think about managing my weight, and the second thing is defense. Around 98kg is appropriate,” he said, putting the figure on the line.
Lastly, the motto was also introduced. “I always write it down on my equipment. It’s a win-win situation. I think that only by beating myself can I become a stronger person. My high school coach told me to keep it in my head and live with it. I’m always thinking about it. My goal is not to be nominated, but to get to the first team as quickly as possible. “I want to give the impression of solving problems (as a batter) and blocking and catching (as a catcher),” he said, showing his strong will.