(Asiad) S. Korean baseball team trying to adjust to playing surface, new ball in China

After the first practice in China ahead of its first game at the 19th Asian Games, the operative word for the South Korean baseball team was “adjustment.”

And there is plenty to adjust to, from the playing surface to the official ball in play.

Ryu Joong-il, manager of the South Korean baseball team at the Asian Games, speaks to reporters after a practice at Shaoxing Baseball and Softball Sports Centre in Shaoxing, China, on Sept. 29, 2023. (Yonhap)

Ryu Joong-il, manager of the South Korean baseball team at the Asian Games, speaks to reporters after a practice at Shaoxing Baseball and Softball Sports Centre in Shaoxing, China, on Sept. 29, 2023. (Yonhap)

Managed by Ryu Joong-il, the baseball team arrived in the main host city of Hangzhou on Thursday and had its first look at the venue of the competition, Shaoxing Baseball and Softball Sports Centre in Shaoxing, just southeast of Hangzhou, on Friday.

After the session, Ryu spoke about “many different variables at play” for his team, as South Korea, made up of Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) stars, chases an unprecedented fourth consecutive baseball gold medal.

“How long it takes us to adjust to our surroundings will determine the outcome of the tournament,” Ryu said. “The mound is a little bit higher (than mounds at KBO parks), and so our pitchers will have to get used to it quickly. The artificial grass here is rather tall. The ball bounces quite a bit here and our infielders may have some trouble.”

Infielder Park Seong-han agreed with the skipper, saying, “The ball tended to bounce off the surface quite high. So we all talked about how we should try to play here.”

Ryu said he has full confidence in his players to be ready come the first game against Hong Kong on Sunday.

“Every team will be playing under the same conditions,” Ryu said. “So we will do our best to make our adjustments and play some great baseball.”

Gwak Been, pitcher on the South Korean baseball team at the Asian Games, speaks to reporters after a practice at Shaoxing Baseball and Softball Sports Centre in Shaoxing, China, on Sept. 29, 2023. (Yonhap)

Gwak Been, pitcher on the South Korean baseball team at the Asian Games, speaks to reporters after a practice at Shaoxing Baseball and Softball Sports Centre in Shaoxing, China, on Sept. 29, 2023. (Yonhap)

The Asian Games tournament uses a different ball than the official KBO ball. Pitchers can be particularly sensitive to different types of balls. Some balls have higher seams or slicker surfaces than others.

Gwak Been, the likely starter against Chinese Taipei for Monday, is the rare breed of pitchers who isn’t picky about balls.

“I haven’t really felt much of a difference between the ball here and the one we throw in the KBO,” Gwak said. “Even if they are different, I am usually pretty good at adjusting to different balls. I am confident I can pitch well in any circumstances.”

Gwak said he had already been told which game he would start, but he wasn’t ready to reveal it.

“I am preparing for the game the best I can,” the hard-throwing right-hander for the Doosan Bears said. “We’ll bring home the gold medal.”

Source: Yonhap News Agency