“I’ll aim for the fourth or third starting spot so I don’t have to compete for the fifth spot.”
Choi Sung-young, who led the NC Dinos to their first win in 1018 days, revealed his ambitions.
NC won 3-1 against the Lotte Giants of the 2023 KBO Baseball League at Sajik Baseball Stadium in Busan on April 24. The win snapped a two-game losing streak and broke a four-game losing streak against Lotte, improving NC’s record to 21-20.
Starter Choi Sung-young was outstanding, throwing 97 pitches in five innings, allowing one run on five hits with five walks and four strikeouts despite struggling with his command.
Coming off the mound with his team leading 2-1, he picked up his second win of the season (undefeated) as NC eventually won 3-1. It had been 1018 days since Choi’s last start against the Gwangju KIA Tigers on August 9, 2020.
“I didn’t know I hadn’t won a start for so long, and the bullpen and defense helped me a lot,” Choi said after the game. “I don’t know what I did well yet, because I think it was a lot,” he added.
As mentioned earlier, Choi’s pitches were a bit shaky on the day, with 54 strikes and 43 balls out of a total of 97 pitches.
Choi said, “I think I made it harder for myself because Lotte has a lot of one-hit hitters. I should have been more aggressive, but I was at a disadvantage and didn’t have much to throw,” he said, adding, “(Catcher) Park (Se-hyuk) kept telling me to be aggressive, but I think I was psychologically overwhelmed.”스포츠토토
Choi, who made his professional first-team debut in an NC uniform in 2016, has plenty of experience, going 8-7 with one save and a 5.32 ERA in 82 career games (223.1 innings) through last year.
However, he hasn’t been a regular starter this season. Until recently, he was learning the ropes in the Futures (second-tier) league and was called up to the first team on April 14, making two appearances, but both were out of the bullpen. Prior to this game against Lotte, he was 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA (5.2 scoreless innings).
Choi Sung-young, who had made his presence felt with two strong outings, was given the opportunity to start after Koo Chang-mo was removed from the first team roster to recharge. Was there any pressure to replace the homegrown ace?
“There was no pressure,” Choi said, “I heard that Lotte is the top team and the atmosphere is very good right now. I had a good pace in the last two games, so I was confident going into the first game, but I think I was more shaky because the content wasn’t good. I’m happy that the team won, but I think I could have done a lot better. I think I need to work on it a little bit more. I don’t know what I put on today, but it didn’t work out,” he said, again lamenting his pitching performance.
While it’s clear that not all of his pitches were good, it’s also clear that Choi Sung-young’s comeback pitch was the key to the NC victory. Choi attributed his growth to his time with Sangmu, where he played from 2021 to 2022 before leaving for military service.
“Coach Park (Chi-wang Park) likes to be aggressive, and my pitching coach was Park Hee-soo (now with the Samsung Lions Development Academy), so he taught me how to throw changeups. I learned a lot about how to control my mind in a crisis situation, how to do well when I’m doing well, and I think the results are good because I learned a lot of these things.”
Choi Sung-young continued, “In the commercial world, I didn’t think about going down whether I did well or not, so I felt a little more relaxed. When you feel comfortable, you can play a lot on the field. Then you gain a lot of confidence and have something of your own, so if you do the same here, you seem to do better.” “When I was first recruited, there were nine players from NC, which was the most. There were a lot of them and a lot of motivation. I think we’re all doing well now,” he added.
“Even if I’m not the starter, I’m thinking that if I’m on the mound, I’ll do my best. I want to be a player who can help the team as well as I am now,” said Choi, who has been on the shortlist for the five-man roster every year, but hasn’t been able to secure a spot.
“It’s always been talked about as a five-man competition. I’m a player who needs to be more established. I’ll try to get to the fourth or third team so that I don’t have to say I’m competing for the fifth team.”