As the only high school pitcher on the South Korean Asian Games baseball team, teen prospect Jang Hyun-seok is trying to find his bearings among veterans, with the continental competition fast approaching.
The 19-year-old from Masan Yongma High School is the only amateur for South Korea bound for Hangzhou, China. He may be short on experience, but he isn't short on talent, as attested by his recent signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers. And nearly touching 160 kph (99.4 mph) with a fastball can help anyone fit in nicely with any team.
"It's all very new to me, and I am pretty nervous around these guys," Jang told reporters after the national team's first practice at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul on Saturday. "I feel a bit lost, but I am trying my best to get settled in."
Jang said his older teammates have gone out of their way to help him adjust. In particular, the Hanwha Eagles' flamethrower Moon Dong-ju, just about three months Jang's senior, has taken the fellow fireballer under his wings.
"I still feel a bit awkward here, but no matter what my role will be, I will try to do the best I can," Jang said. "I am really happy to be wearing the national team uniform. I felt pretty good in my recent game, too."
In a scrimmage against another high school last week, Jang struck out 10 batters in five innings.
Jang is also trying to pick other pitchers' brains about their pitches. He has talked to LG Twins closer Go Woo-suk about a hard slider and also tried to learn how to throw a splitter from Lotte Giants pitcher Na Gyun-an, a fellow Masan Yongma grad.
"I also want to learn how they handle different hitters and how they manage games," Jang added. "Since I am representing the country, the goal is obviously to win the gold medal."
South Korea will try to win its fourth straight baseball title in Hangzhou. (Yonhap)