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The path Choi ji-man and Park In-bee took

Posted August. 01, 2020 07:26,   

Updated August. 01, 2020 07:26


A boy who started playing baseball at age 11 took a risk a year later. The boy used to throw and bat right-handed but changed to throwing right-handed and batting left-handed. “He did so because it is the best combination for success in baseball,” said the boy’s mom. The boy grew up to become Tampa Bay Rays’ first baseman Choi Ji-man, 29.

Choi’s decision as a young boy may have helped his survival in Major League Baseball (MLB). Choi, however, ran into another difficulty. He was weak against left-handed pitchers. He had 17 home runs, 57 RBI, and a batting average of 0.274 against right-handed pitchers last season while having two home runs, 6 RBI, and a batting average of 0.210 against left-handed pitchers. He had to stay in the dugout when the opposing starting pitcher was left-handed according to the platoon system.

After being treated as half of a player, Choi decided to switch to batting right against a left-handed Blue Jays pitcher a few days ago and homered on his first ever right-handed at-bats. He batted left-handed in all of his 860 at-bats in MLB.

After joining Seattle Mariners at the age of 18, Choi played for the Baltimore Orioles, the Los Angeles Angels, the New York Yankees, and the Milwaukee Brewers. He had to move to many different teams but did not give up. Choi tried to stay positive by thinking if there is a team who wants him, it means he is being recognized as a good player. Sports commentator Heo Gu-yeon, who has known Choi for a long time, said Choi is a highly self-disciplined person who has great passion for success and is not afraid of new challenges.

When golfer Pak Se-ri was at the top of her career, many South Korean teenagers started playing golf. They tried to learn Pak’s swings even though they all had different body types. When Tiger Woods visited South Korea a few years ago and gave a brief golf lesson to junior golfers, he said he has nothing to teach them anymore. He might have been lost for words after seeing them making same swings.

But Park In-bee was different from so many “Se-ri kids.” She could not train for many hours as she had weak wrists. That is why she developed her own unique swing style and rhythm that does not involve wrist cocking. She did not change her swing style when everyone said it was weird. She eventually became the new queen of Korean golf with her power of concentration and accurate putting.

The world requires you to have individuality and creativity. Whether you are a switch batter or a specialist, you need to develop your own strengths to survive in this world. You should not hesitate to take risks at an early age. This is why qualified teachers should be teaching the youth. You cannot excel in your chosen field if you are same as others. This simple truth not only applies to the field of sports.

Jong-Seok Kim kjs0123@donga.com