LG Twins shortstop Oh Ji-hwan (33) has now become a regular member of the national team. Compared to when he was first selected for the adult national team five years ago, his status has changed significantly.
Baseball team coach Lee Kang-cheol announced the 2023 World Baseball Classic (WBC) baseball team roster on the 4th. Oh Ji-hwan proudly occupied one of the eight infielders selected. Following the 2018 Jakarta-Palembang Asian Games (AG) and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, it is the third selection of the adult national team. He said in a phone call with Ilgan Sports, “The national team always has a lot of responsibility. As many world-class players gather, it will be more fun, and I have high expectations.” Even during the 2022 season, he expressed his greed, saying, “I want to be selected for the WBC national team.”
Oh Ji-hwan was a member of the winning team at the 2008 U-18 World Youth Baseball Championship held in Edmonton, Canada. At the time, he captained the youth team and showed leadership as well.
However, it took a long time for him to wear the Taegeuk mark on his professional stage. He also had a lot of pain. In 2018, 10 years after his 안전놀이터 professional career, he was selected for the Jakarta-Palembang Asian Games national team. At that time, the national team won the gold medal, but due to the controversy over preferential military service, national team coach Seon Dong-yeol attended the National Assembly audit. It was all aimed at Oh Ji-hwan. At the time of the final meeting, KBO and coach Seon Dong-yeol disclosed evidence (Oh Ji-hwan, batting average 0.300, 4 homers, 33 RBIs in 66 games) and argued for the legitimacy of Oh Ji-hwan’s selection.
Oh Ji-hwan participated in the Tokyo Olympics held three years later. Kim Gyeong-moon, the national team coach at the time, praised Oh Ji-hwan for his best defense, saying, “Even though his wife gave birth to their second child during training, he immediately joined the national team and trained. Oh Ji-hwan really trained hard.” Oh Ji-hwan suffered a tear near his left neck during a practice game and played the next day even after receiving five stitches. In the Olympic finals, he showed his fighting spirit by running through the game to the end even on the back of his hand. He served as the tournament’s starting shortstop, recording two home runs and five RBIs.
I want to make good memories with the national team this time. Oh Ji-hwan looked back and said, “The 2018 Asian Games are regrettable in many ways. I couldn’t win a medal at the Tokyo Olympics. It didn’t work out well.” He said, “Isn’t the WBC a baseball world cup? It’s a huge tournament. I want to compete with strong teams such as the United States, Cuba, and Venezuela (which are not usually easy to deal with).”
Oh Ji-hwan played in 142 games last year and recorded a batting average of 0.269, 25 homers and 87 RBIs. He fielded 1167 innings (6th overall), the most by an infielder in his 30s. He won his first Golden Glove in 14 years of joining the club and was recognized as the best shortstop in the KBO League. He said, “I became more and more mature as I went through the national team. I feel proud to be selected to represent Korean baseball,” he said. “I want to be recognized for my skills on the ground.”
Manager Lee Kang-cheol plans to appoint Kim Ha-seong (San Diego Padres) and Tommy Hyun-soo Edman (St. Director Lee said, Depending on the situation, Kim Ha-seong can see third base. Then Oh Ji-hwan will become the starting shortstop.”
Oh Ji-hwan said, “The (WBC) level is much higher than the previous tournaments. I do not have much time left to play as a player. Watching great players play is an important experience that money cannot buy.” I feel more earnest and responsible than anyone else, and I will work hard.”