The Lotte Giants will have one more solid bullpen resource on the mound in the 2024 season. Park Jin-hyung has been away from the game for the past two years, but on November 16, he will complete his military service as a social service worker and join the Giants for their final camp at Sangdong Stadium in Gimhae.
Park began his professional career in 2013 after being selected by Lotte with the 13th overall pick in the second round of the rookie draft. After breaking into the first team in 2015, Park appeared in just two games, but in 2016, splitting time between the starting rotation and the bullpen, he began to make his mark, appearing in 39 games (14 starts) and posting a 6-2 record with three saves and a 5.81 ERA. It wasn’t a flash in the pan.토토사이트
The following year, Park showed further improvement with a 4-4 record, 10 saves, and a 5.11 ERA in 45 games (nine starts), and in 2018, he became a full-fledged bullpen arm. In 2020, he went 1-4 with a 5.70 ERA in 17 appearances, and after the 2021 season, he left Lotte for military service. Now, after a two-year hiatus, he is set to return to the mound.
When contacted by ‘My Daily,’ Park Jin-hyung said, “I was staying in the second team in the 2021 season because my ankle was not good, but everyone around me thought that I went to the military, so I think they thought that I was doing military service for a very long time. Some people thought I went to North Korea, and some people said, ‘Did you go to prison?’” he laughed heartily.
Park will be discharged from the army on the 16th, but from the 12th, he will join the final camp and start preparing for the 2024 season in earnest. Although he didn’t throw a ball in the catcher’s box before he went to work as a social service worker, he visited the resignation ballpark to keep his senses alive, and after his schedule was over, he continued to build his body through PT. He wanted to throw a ball on the mound as soon as possible.
“It’s the 16th, but I’ll be joining the finishing camp on the 12th to work out,” Park said. “I’m tired, but I’ve been coming to Sajik Stadium since early in the morning. I would warm up an hour before the junior who helps me work out, and then throw the ball when the junior arrived. I’ve been on this schedule for a few months now, and I’ve been doing PT every day from 6pm to 12am after work. Our trainer, Lim Chung-hwan, comes to work early in the morning, and he makes us work out until about 12:00 every night. Thanks to him, I have been building my body well.”
Park had a bad ankle before his military service. “Before I joined the military, my ankle wasn’t good, and it threw my balance off, and I couldn’t control it. But now I’m doing long tosses and throwing hard with the catcher close, and my body is in good shape, including my ankle. I’ve been working out with the PT trainers and have improved a lot of things that weren’t good,” he explained.
Having watched all of Lotte’s games this season, he was disappointed not to be able to play himself. “It was a joke until May this year,” he said, “I wanted to play baseball so badly. Since my workplace is near the stadium, people wearing jerseys with my name on them would pass by every once in a while, and I was so grateful, but I also wanted to play baseball. When the team was on the rise, I think I imagined a lot about what it would have been like if I had played as well.”
In Park’s absence, Lotte has undergone a number of changes. After seven consecutive Korean Series (KS) appearances, “Myung-jang” Kim Tae-hyung took the helm, and a number of “new faces” joined the team through free agency and the rookie draft. “When I watch Lotte games and ask, ‘Huh? Did they have a player like that?’ It’s almost all rookies, and I’ve only played against (Yoo) Gangnam. There are a lot of good pitchers among the new juniors, but I’m also very competitive. I hope we can have more synergy through competition.”
If he can perform as well as he did before joining the military, it’s only a matter of time before Park Jin-hyung becomes a key part of Lotte’s bullpen in 2024, and he’s determined to do so. “From (Han) Dong-hee to (Jeon) Jun-woo, (Jung) Hoon-yi, and (Ahn) Chi-hong-yi, I’ve been in contact with them a lot, and especially (Jung) Hoon-yi has been taking care of me because he was afraid I wouldn’t be able to think straight,” he said. “I prepared really hard while fulfilling my duty of defense. The fans have been waiting for me, so it’s time for me to repay them with my performance.”
Park continued, “When (Koo) Seung-min and (Kim) Won-jung watched their older brother record 100 holds and saves, they thought, ‘How great it would have been to be next to him, and what if I had done it first?’ “I closed my eyes and opened them, and I was in my 30s. There’s nowhere to run. There’s nowhere to run. I have to overcome unconditionally and do well,” he said, clenching his fists. Park Jin-hyung, who can be a ‘key’ in the Lotte bullpen, returns.