In June, the first-round of the 2022 Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) First-Year Player Draft is scheduled. This year is the final year for conducting the current first-round nominations, so all eyes are on which player will be nominated. The Sungkyun Times (SKT) met Ju Seung-u, the only university player who is on the rise as the front runner, while high school players are mostly mentioned as the first picks.
The Boy Who Loves Baseball
Q1. Please introduce yourself.
My name is Ju Seung-u. I am a senior studying at Sugnkyunkwan University (SKKU); and also the pitcher of the SKKU baseball team.
• Date of Birth: 2000.01.30
• Position: Pitcher
• Team: Sungkyunkwan University
• Uijeongbu Little Baseball Club
- Youngdong Middle School
- Seoul High School (2015~2017)
• Sungkyunkwan University (2018~)
• 2017 Korean President's Cup National High School Baseball Tournament Outstanding Pitcher
• 2018 College Baseball National Championship MVP
• 2019 College Baseball National Championship Outstanding Pitcher
• 2019 KUSF Baseball U-League Championship Outstanding Pitcher
• 2022 KBO First-Year Player Draft Prospect
Q2. How did you start playing baseball and become a pitcher?
When I was ten years old, I found a ‘Father-Son set,’ a baseball set enabling father and son to play baseball, at the market. My father bought it for me to play together. Since then, I became interested in playing baseball and dreamed of becoming a baseball player. Though I usually took the infielder position in the baseball team due to my short height, I wanted to become a pitcher because I believed I could pitch well. I consistently expressed my desire to be a pitcher to the coach since my freshmen year in high school. He told me that if I grew taller, he would appoint me as the pitcher. Fortunately, I grew up to be about 180cm in my junior year, and I could start my career as a pitcher.
Q3. How did you overcome the conversion from an infielder to a pitcher and become the main player of Seoul High School in such a short time?
Having played in the infielder position for my entire life, I felt a little awkward when I took the mound for the first time. My first pitch off of a mound was thrown at 125km/h, which was not that fast. But, as I started defense training and bulking up, my pitch velocity rose to 140km/h in my senior year. Also, I prefer playing as a pitcher rather than an infielder because I can entirely focus on pitch training only. While as an infielder, I had to train for both pitching and hitting, which was quite challenging and time-consuming. I did not have many struggles in switching positions thanks to our high school pitch coach, Cho Tae-soo, and his passionate teaching. He took care of my pitching posture and other training to become a good pitcher.
|Seoul High School Winning in 2017 (pds.joins.com)|
Q4. After the 2018 KBO draft, you could have made other choices like being a reserve player. Is there any reason why you chose to be a university player, especially a SKKU player?
After the draft, I was contemplating between being a reserve player and a university player. However, a reserve player does not get any advance payment, unlike the players selected by draft, and I thought the team might not take much interest in me. Meanwhile, right after the draft, coach Lee Yeon-soo, an incumbent SKKU coach, contacted me and said that he would like me to play in the SKKU baseball team. This was the biggest reason that I joined the SKKU baseball team.
SKKU No.20 Ju Seung-u
Q5. What was the difference between the high school and university baseball leagues (U-League)?
There was a fixed schedule for each training practice in high school, which was a bit oppressive, and I just followed the coaches’ lead. At university, players can do self-directed workouts and training within a fixed time based on their needs. Also, I did not take many courses during high school; however, at university, I am required to take 18 credits like any other university student and have midterms and finals. Therefore, I only spend three to four hours a day in training, which is less than high school training of six to seven hours. Though I think the current three to four hours is enough, it is hard to do both exercise and study simultaneously. Besides, I think it would be better if there were more games for the U-League because there seem to be fewer games than the high school league to gain practical experience.
Q6. You have made excellent records since becoming a freshman, such as recording an Earned Run Average (ERA) below 3.0 in 2018-19. What do you think your strength is?
My fastest pitch was clocked at 153km/h, making it hard for batters to hit. Also, I can cope well under high pressure with a strong mentality and confidence within myself. For a strong mentality, I keep thinking about having confidence, telling myself the words that can cheer me up, and sometimes keep a diary. These days, I am focusing on caring about my body condition as well as my mental condition. I thought throwing many balls in 2018-19 was one reason for last year’s slump, so I prioritized improving my physical condition during the winter. When preparing for this season, I focused on improving flexibility and weight training, which help to recover and build muscle.
Q7. What was the most impressive game during the U-League?
The final match with Yonsei University in the 2018 College Baseball National Championship, where I won the MVP, left the best impression for me. With SKKU leading by four to three, there was a runner on third with no outs. In this situation, I struck out three batters in a row, steering our team to victory. I was very pleased, and I jumped for joy!
|SKKU Winning in 2018 (ojsfile.ohmynews.com)|
Q8. Are there any differences when playing baseball during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic?
Before COVID-19, the team usually went abroad to train in warm places; however, we went to Busan this year. Consequently, there were difficulties exercising in a colder area. Also, the games are now played without spectators. Though most of the spectators in the U-League are the players’ parents, I think it is more cheerful and helpful to have spectators in the stadium. Last year, the U-League got postponed due to the COVID-19 outbreak. I got tired of the repetition of preparing for the season and having it delayed. Back then, I anticipated the day I could play the games again, which is why I cannot wait for this season to begin!
The Future Baseball Life of Ju Seung-u
Q9. What do you feel regarding the upcoming 2022 KBO Draft?
I appreciate having attention on me. However, I am trying not to care too much about it and just focus on training with the desire to play in the KBO league. I hope I can make my KBO debut soon!
Q10. What do you think about yourself as a player? What kind of pitcher do you want to be?
I think I am a confident player. Oh Seung-hwan, an ex-MLB pitcher, nicknamed ‘Stone Buddha’ for his strong mentality, was my role model when I was young. I am not usually daunted when I am on the mound, so I think I have a strong mentality like him. I want to be a pitcher who can make fans comfortable when watching the games. Moreover, I hope to win the KBO League Rookie of the Year Award, and I want to have my number retired. I also want to be a franchise player who stays on one team and remains in the minds of baseball fans for a long time.
|Ju Seung-u, a Pithcer at SKKU (sempr._.lucete Instagram)|
Q11. This year is your last season in the U-League. What are your goals for this season?
Until now, there have been five games this year, and our team has won all the games; I pitched nine innings in four games. As I have achieved an ERA of 0.00 until now, I think it is a good start, and I feel like this year will be a good season. My goal for this season is not to have any injuries, raising my average pitch velocity to 150km/h, and improving breaking ball and pitching command. Also, I want to keep my ERA at a zero point.
Q12. Any last words for the Kingos?
I hope that Kingos live with passion and confidence. Also, I feel sad that many Kingos do not know the existence of the SKKU baseball team, even though SKKU is the best team in the U-League. It would be great if there was a derby match between the SKKU and Hanyang University baseball teams, like the Yonsei University vs. Korea University derby match. For SKKU baseball team junior players, I want to advise them to meet a wide range of people and not to be limited on the baseball field, as you are in a great university. Lastly, to everyone who loves baseball, I hope you keep paying attention to baseball, such as watching baseball games every day and rooting for your team.
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