Bae Ji-hwan Bae, 24, of the Pittsburgh Pirates, who did not make the baseball team for the Hangzhou 2022 Asian Games, has expressed his desire to wear the flag.
After completing the regular season in Major League Baseball (MLB), Bae returned home on Nov. 11 via Incheon International Airport. When asked if he wanted to compete in the Asian Games, he acknowledged his past controversies and expressed his desire to play for the national team if he had the chance.
According to Yonhap News Agency on the 12th, Bae said, “I’m sure the Korean baseball organization would be reluctant because I’ve never played in Korea and I’ve had a lot of bad things to say in the past.” “It’s not something I can control, so I want to do my best for the team in the uniform I’m wearing now,” he said.
“I’m greedy,” he added, “because it’s every baseball player’s dream to play for the national team.”
In 2017, Bae was fined $2 million for assaulting his then-girlfriend and suspended 30 games for the 2019 season by Major League Baseball’s (MLB) office. The Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) saw this as a reason to disqualify him from the national team and removed him from the preliminary roster for the Hangzhou Asian Games.
Despite not making the national team, Bae had a meaningful season in the big leagues this year. After starting in the minors in 2018, Bae became a full-time starter in the big leagues this year, batting .231 (77-for-334) with 32 home runs, 54 runs scored, and 23 stolen bases in 111 games.
However, he missed nearly six weeks in July with a sprained left ankle and was unable to maintain his early-season momentum at the plate.
“My goal was to play a full season, but I couldn’t because I was injured,” Bae said, adding, “Next year, I want to play all the games without getting injured.”
When asked about his team-high 24 stolen bases, he laughed, saying, “I think 24 is a lot for a rookie,” and added, “My dad is fast. I think it’s in my DNA,” he quipped. “I’ve learned that sometimes you have to slow down because sometimes you can’t play baseball with speed,” he said, but he also chastised himself for thinking “I have to hit it well because once I get on base, I can play.”
Looking ahead to next season, he said, “I think it’s a big challenge to play consistently like a big leaguer,” and added, “I want to stay in the major leagues next year and play a lot of fall baseball.”
When asked to give advice to Lee Jung-hoo (Kiwoom Heroes), who is about to enter the major leagues, he said, “I think I need to learn baseball because I’ve earned the right to challenge as the best player in Korea.” “I hope there are more Korean players in the major leagues because I feel marginalized. I also hope that Jung-hoo will come here soon with a good contract.”
He is getting married to a woman from the general public in early January next year and says, “She has a beautiful heart and a beautiful face. There is no shortage,” he said affectionately, adding, “I’m still young, but I feel like I can live with her until I die.”
Bae made his MLB debut at the end of the season last September, becoming the “26th Korean big leaguer in history,” and immediately became a full-time starter in his second year. It’s an encouraging performance that bodes well for the future, given that it was actually his first season after five years in the minor leagues.
After graduating from Kyungpook National University 메이저사이트, Bae signed with Pittsburgh in 2018 and made his way to Single-A in 2019, Double-A in 2021, and Triple-A last year. He was promoted to the first team on September 24 of that year, and in 10 big league games, Bae hit .333 (11-for-33) with six RBIs and three stolen bases.
Recognized for his potential, Bae started the 2023 season with a bang, making the opening day roster (26) this year.
After opening the year with a multi-hit game (3-for-4, 2 doubles, 1 walk, 2 runs scored, 2 stolen bases), Bae set the tone in April when he and then-teammate Choi Ji-Man (now with San Diego) became the first Korean-American hitters in MLB to share a start and share a home run.
In late May, he began to see the effects of his batting stance correction, and by June 10, he was batting .277 (46-for-166) for the season. On June 17, he stole his 20th base of the season (after six failed attempts), becoming the first major leaguer to reach 20 steals since Shin-Soo Choo (SSG Rangers) in 2013.
However, injuries and a slump prevented him from continuing this upward trend. On June 19, he fell into a hitting slump, going without a hit in 10 consecutive games, and on July 3, he was placed on the disabled list (IL) with a left ankle sprain, ending his first half prematurely.
His first half numbers were .238 (51-for-214) with two home runs, 19 RBIs and 20 stolen bases in 76 games.
After a rehabilitation stint, Bae returned on August 19 and had a solid second half.
He showed off his mobility, leading the team in stolen bases and playing solid defense at second base and center field. He even set a new personal record for longest hitting streak with an eight-game hitting streak from Sept. 6 against the Milwaukee Brewers to Sept. 14 against the Washington Nationals.
Pittsburgh finished the regular season in fourth place in the NL Central and missed the postseason.