It’s taken 17 years since Hyun-jin Ryu (Toronto Blue Jays). The Hanwha Eagles’ parched rookie farm finally had a bumper crop. Even more encouraging is that it will continue next year. To the delight of Hanwha fans, Moon Dong-ju, 20, spoke with confidence.
Moon took home the Rookie of the Year award at the 2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO Awards Ceremony held at the Grand Ballroom of the Westin Chosun Hotel in Seoul on Nov. 27. He won 65 of the 111 votes cast by the journalists, with 58.5 percent of the vote.
He is the first rookie champion from Hanwha since Ryu Hyun-jin, who burst onto the scene in 2006 and won the Rookie of the Year award as well as the league’s Most Valuable Player (MVP). Moon, who entered last year with high expectations but struggled with injuries and inconsistency and was limited to 28⅔ innings, went 8-8 with a 3.72 ERA and 95 strikeouts in 118⅔ innings over 23 games.
He became the first Korean player to throw a KBO-certified fastball in excess of 160 kilometers per hour and won a gold medal at the 2022 Hangzhou Asian Games as the team’s ace. He is the ‘belly button’ of Hanwha fans.
Hanwha pitcher Moon Dong-ju. /Photo=Hanwha Eagles
This season, Hanwha took special care of Moon. They limited his pitch count to 120 innings, which allowed him to pitch at the Asian Games and the Asian Professional Baseball Championship (APBC) 2023 without any problems. Last year was a trial and error, and this season, the team has limited his innings. With international experience under his belt, it will be interesting to see how far he can go next year.레모나토토 도메인
It took 17 years to see another Rookie of the Year after Ryu Hyun-jin, but Hanwha fans are getting excited that they won’t have to wait that long for the next one.
“I feel like I need to be a better person and a better player so that younger players can grow their dreams by watching me,” said Moon Dong-ju at the KBO awards ceremony. “I know it’s an award to do better, and there are two juniors, (Kim) Seo-hyun and Hwang Jun-seo, and I will lead the way so that I can be an example.”
When asked if he thinks Hanwha will win the Rookie of the Year award again next year, he said, “I think I can, and I think I should,” adding, “I hope we can show that our team can do it too.”
It’s not an unreasonable expectation. At the moment, it seems possible. For starters, there’s Kim Seo-hyun (19), who finished the year on a disappointing note. With a fastball comparable to Moon Dong-ju’s, Kim was one of the most sought-after pitchers this season.
With his confident demeanor and fiery fastball, he showed his desire to be a closer, amplifying expectations at the Okinawa training camp.
However, he was reminiscent of Moon Dong-ju last year. Choi Won-ho, who took over the reins midway through the season, had him start from the second team, throwing as many pitches as possible to gain experience. However, there were a few things that were a bit difficult for the rookie to overcome, such as psychological issues.
Moon Dong-ju went through a similar process and transformed into a completely different player in his second year. No one doubts his talent. There are high hopes that Kim Seo-hyun, who is similar in many ways, will grow up to be like Moon Dong-joo.
Now, there’s another rookie who could be an inspiration for Kim Seo-hyun. Hanwha selected Jang Chung-go pitcher Hwang Jun-seo (18) with the first overall pick in the 2024 KBO Rookie Draft.
Hwang Jun-seo expresses his feelings after winning the grand prize at the Future Star Awards on Aug. 28. /Photo by Kim Chang-hyun
Hwang Jun-seo, who stands at 187 centimeters-80 kilograms, pitched 49⅔ innings in 15 games in the high school league this year, posting a 6-2 record with a 2.16 earned run average (ERA), 36 hits, 16 walks, one hit batsman, 58 strikeouts and 16 runs (12 earned) without a home run. He is a left-handed pitcher who is capable of delivering fastballs up to 150 kilometers per hour.
Hwang won the baseball grand prize at the ‘2023 Future Star Awards’ held at the Gwanghwamun Building in Jongno-gu, Seoul, on April 28. The ‘Future Star Award’ winner selection committee said, “He has shown the most stable performance since his sophomore year in high school and was the best in his junior year.” “Although Kim Taek-yeon did well in the youth representative team, Hwang Jun-seo is the best in terms of consistency,” the committee said. Hwang Jun-seo, who had already won the Future Star Pitcher Award at the Amateur Star Awards organized by Star News last year, proved once again that he was the best pitcher in high school.
After joining the final camp and feeling the professional atmosphere early on, Hwang Jun-seo won the favor of the coaching staff and excited the fans even more. “I feel like I’ve improved a lot,” he said after the podium ceremony, “I have a 50 percent slider, so I’m going to make it more complete.”
Despite the unfamiliarity of a long race, he has already prepared thoroughly in his head. “I think the physical part is very important. “I think I need to build up a lot of stamina so that I can play 144 games if I play next year,” he said, adding, “Seeing (Moon Dong-joo’s rookie award) in the news made me think, ‘I want to win the rookie award too.