That day, I cried for the first time in my life. The release notice. I felt abandoned. “It was my first ordeal, so it made me a little more determined. It motivated me and made me more determined.” It was September 2021. Jin Woo-young, 22, had changed his course in baseball.
He went through the Global Advancement School and has been playing in the Kansas City Royals Rookie League ($150,000 contract) since 2019. When we met at the Body Science Baseball Training Center in Jamsil, Seoul on the afternoon of the 5th, he said, “I remember the game against Milwaukee the most, which was my first start. I went out after the start and pitched 4⅔ innings, which wasn’t perfect, but I was satisfied.” He ended the 2019 season with a 먹튀검증 record of 6-2 with a 2.35 ERA in 14 games and 46 innings pitched. His fastball was clocked at 152 kilometers per hour. Locally, there were even pink slips that said he could make his major league debut in 2024.
However, the 2020 season was canceled due to COVID-19. The 2021 season was held as normal, but Jin remained in the Rookie League. He thought he could be promoted to Single-A based on his performance in 2019, but he was not. He won a pitcher of the month award, but there were no calls from the higher leagues. “I was very frustrated because I couldn’t get promoted while the kids I was working out with were getting promoted. I thought I had to continue to quench my thirst because my restraints were not as strong as others.” After the season, he was released by the team.
After returning to Korea, Jin Woo-young immediately enlisted in the military (December 21, 2021). Luckily, he was able to work at the same office as a full-time reserve, which allowed him to work out after work. He started touching the ball again in October last year, playing catch, and in early May, he used his vacation to play for the independent Paju Challengers. In his first appearance in more than 21 months, his fastball reached 146 kilometers per hour, giving him hope. “It’s been a long time since I’ve stood on the mound and thrown a ball, so I was a little nervous and excited at first. After I got the first batter out, I realized, ‘Oh, this is what it feels like to play baseball,'” he said. “It was like coming home,” he said.
Jin’s favorite weapon is his splitter. It’s his “most confident” pitch. In the American Rookie League, he used the splitter as his deciding pitch and struck out a lot of batters. For now, he’s focused on improving his fastball velocity and finding his feel for the game. Recently, he has also been experimenting with his cutter grip.
His peers are currently in their fifth professional season in the KBO. One such player is Won Tae-in (Samsung Lions). “When I see players my age throwing the ball in front of a large number of fans, I feel envious. They seem to have fun throwing the ball in front of the crowd, and I want to do the same,” said Jin. His ultimate goal in baseball is to “have fans remember me playing baseball.”
A baseball journal he’s kept since high school fills in the gaps of his day. On days when he is satisfied with his training, he writes self-help words, such as, “If I make a mistake, other advice will come, so don’t beat yourself up about it and learn from it. His MBTI is INFJ, which means “I don’t have a lot of mood swings and I’m not easily swayed.” INFJs are known for their patience, insight, and intuition.
He started playing baseball in the fifth grade because he enjoyed playing catch with his father. What kept him going was his dream of becoming a professional. Still in the military (demobilized on the 20th), Jin Woo-young is taking time off to participate in the 2023 Dream Cup Independent Baseball Tournament (July 7-12) in Hwaseong-gun, Gangwon-do. The tournament will feature seven independent baseball teams, including the Paju Challengers, and will serve as a preliminary showcase for him before tryouts in August and the draft in September. “I want to give my best performance no matter how many innings I pitch,” said Jin Woo-young. With actor Park Eun-bin’s motto, “What can I do, I’ll do it,” his new baseball chapter is about to begin.