‘21st District → 19th District → 16th District → 24th District → 98th District’ An unbelievable 5-game series… 20th century baseball in the 21st century, coach Lee Young-bok, are you happy with the bronze medal?
5 consecutive fights: 21st district → 19th district → 16th district → 24th district → 98th district. This is not a story about an ‘old baseball’ saga that might have come out of the 20th century or the 1980s. This is a story of the ‘abuse’ that an 18-year-old youth national team ace pitcher had to bear in the 21st century, 2023.메이저놀이터
The Korean youth baseball team, led by coach Lee Young-bok (Chungam High School), won 4-0 against the United States in the bronze medal match at the World Youth Baseball Championship held in Taipei, Taiwan on September 10.
The Korean national team scored two points first in the first inning thanks to Yeo Dong-gun’s triple and Park Ji-hwan’s squeeze bunt. Korea gradually accumulated points with Lee Sang-jun’s timely hit in the 4th inning and Lee Seung-min’s timely triple in the 6th.
Kim Taek-yeon, a pitcher for the Korean youth national team, led the team to a bronze medal amid controversy over overuse in five consecutive pitches. Photo = WBSC
Above all, Kim Taek-yeon, who appeared as the starting pitcher that day, led the team to a bronze medal with a complete pitching pitch of 7 innings, allowing 2 hits, 9 strikeouts, 1 walk, and no runs. Kim Taek-yeon appeared in a total of 6 games in this tournament and showed his ace-like qualities with 2 wins, 16 innings, 29 strikeouts, 4 walks, and an ERA of 0.88.
However, if we look at the process rather than the result, the youth national team cannot avoid the controversy over ‘overuse of five consecutive matches’.
Kim Taek-yeon pitched in relief against Taiwan on September 2 and threw 54 pitches. After taking a day’s rest, he made a relief appearance against Australia on September 4 and threw 15 pitches.
And Kim Taek-yeon, who took a day’s rest on the 5th, made a relief appearance against Puerto Rico on the 6th and threw 21 pitches, but was unable to finish the pitch due to a suspended game due to rain. Kim Taek-yeon, who also went on the mound in the suspended game against Puerto Rico that resumed on the 7th, finished his appearance by throwing 19 pitches.
In the Super Round match against the United States held on the 8th, Kim Taek-yeon took the mound in relief, following starter Hwang Jun-seo, and pitched 16 pitches. Kim Taek-yeon, who pitched 3 consecutive pitches, also appeared in relief in the Super Round match against the Netherlands on the 9th and threw 24 pitches along with 4 consecutive pitches.
Following the 4-game series, the much-anticipated ‘5-game series’ became a reality. Kim Taek-yeon took the starting mound in the bronze medal game against the United States and threw a total of 98 pitches until the 7th inning. In 21st century baseball, where a total of 178 pitches were thrown over 5 days, something incredibly and unrealistic happened.
Kim Taek-yeon’s youth baseball team appearance log:
54 pitches against Taiwan on the 2nd,
3 days’ rest,
15 pitches against Australia on the 4th,
5 days’ rest
21 pitches against Puerto Rico on the 6th,
19 pitches against Puerto Rico (suspended) on the 7th, 16
pitches against the US on the 8th,
24 pitches against the Netherlands on the 9th,
98 pitches against the US on the 10th,
a total of 247 pitches pitched over 9 days during the competition period.
Even in the KBO League, where players must grow into adults and prepare for their professional debut to advance to the first team, it is difficult to find five-game series without a break. The pitcher who most recently pitched five consecutive pitches in the KBO League is Shim Soo-chang of the Hanwha Eagles, led by former coach Kim Seong-geun (current Choi Kang Baseball coach) in 2016. (3 pitches in 0.1 innings against Doosan on the 17th, 21 pitches in 0.2 innings against LG on the 18th, 21 pitches in 0.2 innings against LG on the 19th) (14 pitches in 1.1 innings against LG, 40 pitches in 2.1 innings against KT on the 20th, 10 pitches in 1.1 innings against KT on the 21st)
Kim Taek-yeon is even the player who suffered even more severe abuse in 5 consecutive pitches than Shim Soo-chang in 2016. On the last day of the five-game series, he threw a whopping 98 pitches, which was a more difficult pitching schedule than that of a veteran professional pitcher who had experienced all kinds of hardships. Before the bronze medal match on September 10th, Doosan, which had Taekyeon Kim as a candidate for first round selection, was also paying close attention to the youth national team’s final game. A Doosan official asked with a wry smile, “Is it really true that Kim Taek-yeon will be on the starting mound?”
Coach Lee Young-bok and his coaching staff, who are responsible for managing the national team’s games, are also not free from the controversy over abuse. This is because the rest day rule based on the number of pitches was cleverly used to protect the arms and shoulders of youth players. The rest day rule according to the number of pitches stipulated by the tournament headquarters was not created to encourage five-game pitching, which goes from 21 pitches → 19 pitches → 16 pitches → 24 pitches → 98 pitches. Adults who should protect the future of Korean baseball more than anyone else ordered an embarrassing five-game series just for the sake of a bronze medal.
The five-game series is an abuse and disaster that has already occurred, but baseball officials and baseball fans must never forget September 10, 2023. This is why among the pitchers who faced controversy over overuse in the past World Youth Baseball Championships, there were cases where they gave up their dreams without even blooming in the first team. The results of this international competition, which is held for about 10 days, are not responsible for the next 10 or 20 years of the youth athlete’s life.
I would like to convey a message to the youth national team players that they have all worked hard and congratulate them, but this bronze medal performance and Kim Taek-yeon’s five consecutive fights should never be packaged as ‘beautiful fighting spirit.’ For an 18-year-old pitcher, five consecutive pitches of 178 pitches without any rest days is clearly overwork. Regardless of Kim Taek-yeon’s future health, we must prevent another ‘5-fight abuse’ and victims from it in the future. I would like to ask here. Coach Lee Young-bok, are you really happy that you won a bronze medal?