The first candidate, 156km Jung Woo-joo, was born like this. “I couldn’t even touch the ball for 6 months.”

April 23, 2024 | by

Jeonju High School, which aimed to win the national championship title for the first time in 39 years, was disappointed in the final. However, the Korean high school student showed brilliant performances and efforts to advance to the final once again, which even the captain praised.

Jeonju High School, led by head coach Joo Chang-hoon, remained in second place after losing 5-8 to Deoksu High School in the final of the “2024 Shinsegae E-Mart Cup National High School Baseball Tournament” co-hosted by the Korea Baseball Softball Association (KBSA) and Shinsegae E-Mart at SSG Landers Field in Incheon on the 22nd.

Overall, unstable defense and poor concentration were hampered. The most decisive scene was that the third baseman was out due to the opponent’s check in the bottom of the seventh inning when the team was losing 5-7, and the third baseman was out and the inning was scoreless. It was also painful that Jung Woo-joo (18), the most highly anticipated starter, was sluggish in five ⅔ innings with five hits (one homer) and four walks (two balls that fit the body), seven strikeouts and five runs (three earned). He sprayed fast balls up to 154 kilometers per hour several times, but it was regrettable that his physical condition, which had not been in good condition since the semi-finals, did not recover enough. Another third-year ace, Lee Ho-min (18), was also unable to play with 105 pitches in the semi-finals, so Jung Woo-ju had to pull out a long inning somehow.
Coach Joo Chang-hoon met after the game and said, “(Jung) Woo-ju’s arm was a little heavy. As a result, the more I threw, the lower my arm got,” adding, “Players were generally flopped. I had some regrets in defense and baserunning.”

However, he also displayed positive performances. As Deoksu High School coach Jeong Yoon-jin warned before the game, tablesetters Um Joon-hyun and Sung Min-soo gave four hits, scored one RBI and two runs, and stirred the opponent team’s infield. Third baseman Choi Yoon-seok, despite being the third batter, displayed strong shoulders, timely bunt, and stole two bases in good performance. Seo also had one hit, one walk, two RBIs and one stolen base from three times at bat, showing other charms than home runs. Kim Seo-joon, who was listed on the starting lineup despite being a freshman, led the lower ranks of the lineup by making two hits, one RBI and two runs from four times at bat, as he will be responsible for the upcoming lineup.

The praise from our archrival, Deoksu High School, was not unnecessary. After winning the championship, Coach Chung Yoon-jin said, “I thought today’s game would be very difficult. As a coach, I thought I should never reveal it, so I haven’t told you,” adding, “Jeon is a really good team. I think we will definitely win the championship this year. We were lucky today, but I clearly felt that Jeon is the team that can win the championship.”

Jeonju High School is facing its second heyday, including the runner-up of the E-Mart Cup in 2019 and the runner-up of the Presidential Cup in 2022 after Joo Chang-hoon took the helm in 2018. Last year, even the men’s professional basketball team Jeonju KCC Aegis left for Busan, and the professional sports club in Jeonbuk remains only the men’s professional football Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, and Jeonju High School’s successive propaganda is comforting sports fans in Jeonbuk.

It deserves to be used as a role model for provincial high school baseball teams, which are increasingly in jeopardy. For decades, provincial high school baseball teams have been struggling to supply and demand players due to a slump in population and concentration in the Seoul metropolitan area. According to Statistics Korea, the number of newborns in 2023 stood at only 235,039. It is all the more realistic to think about the fact that 633,092 babies were born in 1988, the golden generation of Korean baseball, and the number of newborns reached 495,543, when Moon Dong-joo (21, Hanwha Eagles) and Kim Do-young (21, KIA Tigers) were born in 2003.

In addition, the number of players going to Seoul to study baseball is steadily increasing as better baseball infrastructure is being established in the Seoul metropolitan area, including individual training centers. However, due to the influx of promising players, prestigious baseball teams in the Seoul area cannot play until the second grade, and even after the third grade, they cannot play in their position depending on school circumstances.

Against this backdrop, Jeonju High School has created an environment where students can focus only on baseball, and is actively scouting players for the opportunity to play starting in the first year if their skills are supported. It is not easy to look away because there are dormitories in the school, and the school is making its own efforts, such as considering a diet for the baseball team. The active support and interest of the alumni association also make the players shrug.

A case in point was Chung Woo-joo, a 156 kilometer ace. Jung Woo-joo, who graduated from Baekbong Elementary School (Namyangju Little) to Naebu Middle School, was a member of Shinil High School until July last year. Despite his good pitching, he didn’t get many opportunities with a 2.45 ERA in 12 games and 34 strikeouts in 22 ⅓ innings, 15 walks and two bodies. Coach Joo Chang-hoon highly evaluated the possibility of Jung Woo-joo and brought him in August last year along with Um Jun-hyun. Four of the 10 players who started in the finals (Jung Woo-joo, Eom Jun-hyun, Yoon Do-yeon, and Kim Seo-joon) were created like this. 유흥알바

During the season, he did not waste a six-month suspension due to transfer. With the permission of the principal, he attached a trainer from Gangwon FC to Jung Woo-joo and only trained his lower body and core muscles until February this year. During rehabilitation and muscle training, he was not allowed to touch the ball, and as a result, his fastball speed, which he played at around 150 kilometers per hour, jumped to 156 kilometers per hour during practice. The speed of his fastball also exceeded 2,600 rpm even when he was in poor condition, and his maximum speed was 154 kilometers per hour in the final match on the day. He was mentioned as the No. 1 candidate in the 2025 KBO rookie draft through this competition by using mature splitters, sliders, circle changeups and curves.

“At first, when I was scouting (Jung Woo-ju), I told my father that I would not overwork him and let him throw only when it is important for our Korean baseball,” coach Joo Chang-hoon said. “I didn’t even let him touch the ball until February this year, but he said he wanted to throw only one inning, so I threw 12 pitches in practice games. At that time, there was no ball below 150 kilometers per hour. His fastball speed is also fastball speed, but he has been hit hard because his rotational speed is really good. He throws balls that are hard for high school students to hit.”

Outside the ground, the second Jung Woo-joo and the third Jung Woo-joo are preparing for their second leap forward. Park Ji-hoon (17) of Gangneung High School, who showed good pitching in seven innings of six hits, three walks, four strikeouts and two runs (one earned run) against Deoksu High School in the E-Mart Cup final last year, has joined Jeonju High School. Seo Joo-an (18), a 190-centimeter-tall left-hander who threw fast balls at 145 kilometers per hour since his freshman year, also underwent surgery for an internal ligament (MCL) in his left elbow this year and is seeking to return to the team next year.

Although the first national competition remained in second place, Jeonju High School’s future is bright.


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