Korea views an upcoming world youth baseball championship on home soil as an opportunity to further promote the country's prowess in the sport, the national team manager said Monday.
The country will host the 18U Baseball World Championship, organized by the International Baseball Federation (IBAF), from Aug. 30 to Sept. 8. The biennial event is open to players under the age of 18, and South Korea is hosting it for the first time.
At a media day event Monday, Lee Jeong-hoon, the South Korean manager, said his players are ready to please the home crowd.
"The players are all in perfect form, mentally and physically, and they will try to contribute to the development of amateur baseball in our country," Lee said. "We will try to turn this into an opportunity to promote the excellence of our baseball to the rest of the world."
The first under-18 championship was held in 1981 and this year's is the 25th edition. South Korea is a five-time champion.
All matches will be held at Jamsil and Mokdong Stadiums, both in Seoul. South Korea has been paired with the U.S., Venezuela, the Netherlands, Australia and Colombia in Group A. Group B includes defending champion Chinese Taipei, Canada, Panama, the Czech Republic, Italy and Japan.
After the round-robin play, the top three countries from each group will advance to the second round. Teams' combined records from the first and the second rounds will determine the seedings for the ranking round. The top two nations will compete for the championship.
Korea will field a team of 20 players; eight pitchers, two catchers, five infielders and five outfielders.
Yoon Hyoung-bae, a hard-throwing right-hander, is considered the team's ace. The starter for Bugil High School in Cheonan, about 90 kilometers south of Seoul in South Chungcheong Province, said he doesn't yet know whether he will start or pitch out of the bullpen for the national team.
He said he will try his best no matter what.
"I've always wanted to compete at an international event, so that I could test myself against players from different countries," the 18-year-old said. "I don't care what kind of role I am asked to play. Whenever I am asked to pitch, I will do my best."
Lee, who manages Yoon and five other players at Bugil High School, said Korea should battle the U.S. and Australia for the top spot in Group A. He said he might use Bugil's Song Joo-young in mid-relief, since his submarine delivery may caught opposing hitters off-guard, and then use Yoon as the closer in early rounds. Lee added Yoon could also start a key game in the second round should South Korea get there.
Han Seung-taek, catcher for Seoul-based Duksoo High School, will likely handle the majority of catching duties during the championship. He said it will be with "a sense of responsibility, confidence and pride" that he will try to represent the country.
"We have a collection of players from different schools," Han noted. The 20 players are from 13 different schools. "We've been trying to build teamwork and execute plays as a team." (Yonhap)