Winning the gold medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing is considered one of the greatest triumphs in Korean baseball history. In the bottom of the ninth inning of the final game against Cuba, with the bases loaded, it was Jin Gap-yong (49), head coach of the KIA Tigers, who teamed up with pitcher Jung Dae-hyun to bring in Yuli Gurriel to preserve a 3-2 lead.

In the final game, Jin did not start due to a thigh injury. With one out in the bottom of the ninth inning, when junior catcher Kang Min-ho was ejected for protesting a ball call, Jin hastily put on his catcher’s mask. He recommended Jung Dae-hyun to national team manager Kim Kyung-moon, who was considering using Yoon Seok-min before the game. This was after seeing the ball in the bullpen.

The best catcher of his generation will protect the national team. Jin has played in six international tournaments, from the 1998 Asian Games (AG) in Bangkok to the 2013 World Baseball Classic (WBC), when the best of the best began competing in the professional ranks. He also served as team captain at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2013 WBC.

In the KBO, he led the Samsung Lions to seven Korean Series (KS) titles and won three Golden Gloves. Along with Park Kyung-wan (now the LG Twins’ battery coach), Jin formed a lineage of catchers in Korean baseball from the late 1990s to the 2000s.

Catching and throwing, the fundamentals

Jin emphasizes the importance of separating a catcher’s hitting ability from his defense. While it’s inevitable that a catcher who can hit a lot of long balls will become more valuable due to market logic, it’s problematic that his defense is undervalued due to his relative lack of offense. “Hitters don’t have hands (in baseball, the person who catches the ball),” Jin emphasized.

When asked about the most important qualities of a catcher, Jin didn’t hesitate to answer, “a good arm and strong shoulders.” “If a catcher can’t get the ball (catching ability), he shouldn’t be in the game,” he said. This means that catching the pitcher’s ball is the catcher’s most basic job, and it’s not easy. To catch a fastball with movement, such as a two-seam fastball-cut fastball, you need to have not only good eye vision, but also the judgment to know the “path of the ball” and lower body agility.

“It’s true that innate qualities play a big role, but you have to train your shoulders to be able to play,” he says. “Not only catchers, but also other beasts,” he said.

Jin had a career stolen base rate of 0.357 as a player. In 2022, Park’s rate was 35.5 percent, the highest among catchers with more than 800 innings played. That’s a stellar stolen base rate throughout his career.

While Jin had strong shoulders, he was criticized for his lack of hip flexibility. “My lower body is also long, so I was told by my seniors, ‘You don’t have the body type to catch,'” he recalls. However, to compensate for this handicap, he developed a posture suitable for catching and throwing.

Win with your eyes first

Coach Jin says, “No matter how good a coach you are, you can’t teach ball placement. Honestly, I don’t know the pitcher’s ball from the side (dugout). You can’t trust the bench signs either. At the end of the day, you just have to take the fundamentals of ball formulation and incorporate your own know-how from experience and choose the pitches that give you the best chance of achieving your goals.”

There are some who have a slightly different preference. “In the past, we had an internal rule that penalized (teams) for a hit or home run on a 0-ball-2-strike count, but I honestly preferred to play the game right away rather than ordering wasted pitches. Sometimes you have to be cautious, depending on the situation, but there was this idea that the starting pitcher should ‘face the hitter,'” he recalls. In fact, he emphasized ‘first-pitch strikes’ to his pitchers countless times.

“In the end, the answer was to give them a lot of success stories. At Samsung, I think 80 to 90 percent of them followed my lead,” he chuckles.

As we talked, there was something unique about Coach Jin Gap-yong. His eyes are sharp and his thinking is flexible.

As a player, when he was preparing to pitch, he would often look at the batter through his mask. He would look at the batter’s position, stance, the position of the hand holding the bat, and every little movement.

In fact, he used to watch opposing hitters in the batting cage before games as they took batting practice. “Especially in home games, even when other players were eating, I would go out on the field with the junior catchers and watch the opposing hitters hit, especially in important games. At the very least, you can see how they’re doing. That way, you can get a feel for the direction of the game.”

He also seems to have an extraordinary eye for pitcher’s moods. An anecdote.

When I asked Coach Jin Gap-yong to name the best game of his career, he said it was against Lee Ho-joon in the top of the ninth inning of Game 5 of the 2012 Korean Series against the SK Wyverns, with the score 2-1. Oh Seung-hwan, then on the mound, was hit by a triple off Choi Jung, the leadoff hitter.

“It was a full count, and he chose a four-seam fastball for the first six pitches. Honestly, by the seventh pitch, my hands were drying up (I was worried). I signed for a slider in this situation, but (Oh) Seung-hwan shook his head, a junior who rarely does that. He looked determined, so I threw him a fastball, and it was a grounder to shortstop.” The Oh-Seung-hwan-Jin battery then struck out the next two batters to preserve the lead.메이저사이트

“I asked Oh Seung-hwan afterward and he said that Lee Ho-joon (who normally kicks leg kicks) didn’t take off his moving foot (left foot) and hit it. I thought the changeup was going to be a cut, so I asked for a fastball. Honestly, I didn’t see it,” he explained.

Coach Jin Gap-yong, who was scanning the batter’s changeup, also made a mistake. But he read his junior pitcher’s mood, trusted his choice and got the best result. The same coach who recommended Jung Dae-hyun, who was suffering from back pain in the final of the Beijing Olympics. The eyes of the Korean national baseball team’s catcher. There was something special about them.

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