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Won Tae-in dreams of more than just Rookie of the Year

Aug 01,2019
At age 6, Won Tae-in only dreamed of playing for the Samsung Lions. But 14 years later, Won achieved that childhood dream and became the Lions’ starting pitcher.

Won Tae-in [SAMSUNG LIONS]
For Won, baseball has always been around him, especially the Lions. Won’s father was drafted by the Lions after he graduated from Yeungnam University in 1984, but instead he played for an amateur team. After he retired, he managed Kyungbok Middle School’s baseball team, now called Hyupseong Gyeongbuk Middle School, for more than 20 years, helping raise some notable players including the Lions’ outfielder Koo Ja-wook and infielder Kim Sang-su.

“Since my mom passed away when I was little, my dad and my [older] brother took care of me,” Won said. “My dad quit his job as a manager this year so he visits to watch the games often. [Playing as a starter] feels great because I feel like I’m being a good son.”

Won regularly went to the baseball stadium with his father and his brother since the age of 6.

“I don’t remember but I heard that I threw baseballs even at home,” Won said. “Since I regularly went to the baseball stadium with my dad, I just naturally became a baseball player.”

From a young age, Won appeared on TV shows as a baseball prodigy. When he joined the Lions, the clips from those TV shows caught fans’ attention. Yet Won says he doesn’t really remember those times as it was so long ago.

Won continued his success throughout his amateur career and was finally drafted by the Lions during the first round of the KBO rookie draft last year. “Playing for the Lions has been a dream of mine since I was little,” Won said. “I did get offers from high school scouts of other regions. But if I joined, that meant I couldn’t get drafted by the Lions in the first round so I declined. I’m very happy to have achieved my dream and goal of becoming Samsung’s starting pitcher.”

In the 20 games Won played this season, he picked up four wins, five losses and two holds with a 2.98 ERA. Won picked up his fourth and most recent win of the season on Sunday, against the Hanwha Eagles. Throughout six innings, he gave up three wins while striking out one. This was his first start in the second half of the season.

Won hit his peak pitching speed as a high school student at Kyeongbuk High School, when he was reaching 150 kilometers per hour (93 miles per hour) but once he turned pro, the speed of his pitches decreased a little, hitting the mid-140 kilometers per hour range.

“No matter how fast my pitches are, it doesn’t work in the professional league, if they’re thrown toward the center [of the strike zone],” Won said. “Watching Yun Sung-hwan, I learned that the pros are all about control. Even when I analyzed [my pitches], I was better when I focused more on the control. So I started to concentrate more on the control [of my pitches].”

With his impressive rookie season, Won is being mentioned as a strong favorite to win the KBO’s Rookie of the Year award, along with the LG Twins’ Jung Woo-young. However, Won has a greater goal.

“Since I only get one chance at it, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want it,” Won said. “[But] our team’s statistics are more important. I grew up watching Samsung’s golden era. My dream is [for the Lions] to play in the postseason and after a few years, to win [the Korean Series].”

BY KIM HYO-KYUNG [kang.yoorim@joongang.co.kr]


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