I was thinking about retirement, but this trick…Jung Woo-ram has good role models, with only three former playing coach coaches
After becoming the first KBO pitcher to reach the 1,000-game milestone, Jung Woo-ram (38-Hanhwa) sat in the dugout and wiped away tears from his eyes. He sobbed as the 20 years since his professional debut in 2004 passed like a blur. Until then, Jung had been seriously considering retirement. He thought it might be the last time.
At the time, he said, “The season is almost over, so I have to think about it. I’m a player now, so I want to play more. I don’t know what my position will be next year, but as long as I don’t break any bones, I want to play at least one more game. I have to talk to the club, and I have to talk to my family,” he said.
After reaching the 1,000-game milestone, Jung received congratulatory calls from his former baseball teammates, making him even more determined to extend his career. “If you want to wear the uniform even 1% of the time, don’t give up. You can do it.” The supportive messages solidified his decision to extend his service. “In July and August, I was thinking a lot about retirement. I heard a lot of people say that it’s good to quit when you feel like it, but unless you’re fired, you should do your best in uniform, and you won’t regret it later.”토토사이트
While Jung’s desire to play was strong, it was also important to Hanwha. With an ever-growing roster of younger players, it was difficult to give him much of a chance in the first team anymore. His ball wasn’t as sharp as it used to be, and the club was worried about his future. However, when he expressed his desire to take on the challenge, Hanwha honored him with a “playing coach” gimmick. Hanwha recognized Jung’s leadership qualities as he had shown integrity and leadership throughout his career and was well respected by the younger members of the team. After careful consideration, Jung accepted the club’s offer and will stay with the team. He will take on the pitching duties for the reserve team next season, combining the roles of coach and player.
Playing coaches who retain their player status are not uncommon in the KBO, but in past cases, the emphasis has been more on the coach than the player. They’re there as a backup at the end of their careers, but it’s more of a process to prepare them for coaching. Lotte infielder Kim Yong-hee in 1989, Doosan catcher Kim Tae-hyung in 2001, and SK pitcher Kim Won-hyung in 2011 are just three examples of players who became first-team managers after finishing their careers as playing coaches. In 2009, Jeong Min-chul of Hanwha retired as a player-coach during the season and then served as a coach and then manager of the same team.
Playing coach doesn’t necessarily mean outside the game. Jung still wants to contribute to the team as a player, and there are several cases where a player-coach has become a first-team player. They are the best role models for him right now.
Lee Sang-gun, dubbed the “control magician,” retired from Hanwha in 1996 and went on to coach the same team, but returned to active duty as a playing coach in 1999. That year, he went 5-5 with a 4.42 ERA in 30 games (3 starts and 57 innings pitched) and helped anchor the bullpen to the franchise’s first Korean Series title. He reached 100 career wins in 2000 and returned to coaching after his playing career ended in 2001.
Pitcher Lee Jae-kyu, who became a player-coach with Hanwha in 2004, took over the closer’s role in 2005, going 1-20 with a 2.84 ERA in 33 games (38 innings). At the age of 36, he was named to his first All-Star team, showing off the potential that hadn’t blossomed as a prospect. His last season was in 2006, when he made a strong impression in Game 5 of the Korean Series, pitching four innings of one-hit ball with five strikeouts.
Before Jung, left-hander Ryu Taek-hyun, who became the first KBO player to reach 900 career games (901 final), also served as a pitching coach for LG from 2012-2014. He helped the first team as a left-handed one-point relief pitcher with a 3-1 record and three holds in 30 games (24⅓ innings) in 2012 and a 3.07 ERA with 16 holds in 58 games (29⅓ innings) in 2013.
Jung Woo-ram is another lefty who still has a use. The Major League Baseball’s mandatory three-hitter rule is scheduled to be implemented in the KBO in 2025, so we can expect Jung to be used as a one-pitcher against lefties for at least the next year. Despite being a reserve, Jung Woo-ram is determined to prepare for next season without losing sight of his primary mission.
“First of all, when I looked at myself in terms of the direction the team should go next season, I calmly decided that I would not be a priority, but I still wanted to finish my career as a player with the goal of being on the first team mound for even a few games, but the club offered me the position of playing coach, so I made a decision after careful consideration. I thought it would be a good opportunity for me to learn more as a coach, and I thought it would be a good opportunity for me to learn more as a player, so I accepted the club’s offer.”
“I don’t think I’ve given up completely as a player. I’m not going to give up, I’m going to get treatment and start rehabilitation exercises to make my shoulder as strong as possible for next season. If I can help the team when the first team players are tired or struggling, I will prepare with the mindset that I can stand on the first team mound. I will prepare myself with a sense of urgency so that I can see the first team at least once. Until then, I hope the fans can see me as a player,” he said.