“I forgot everything now. It’s been so long… ”
When I told Lee Jae-hak (33, NC Dinos) about the glorious time in the past, it was an answer that came back with a shy smile.
Lee Jae-hak, who entered the professional league wearing a Doosan Bears uniform in 2010, is a right-handed sidearm pitcher who has been active only in NC since being nominated by then-new team NC in the 2nd draft in 2012. Until last year, he posted an average ERA of 4.52 with a record of 77 wins and 71 losses in 270 first-team career games (1253.2 innings).
Lee Jae-hak boasts such a brilliant career. But he didn’t laugh as much as last year. After appearing in 26 games (17 starts), he went 3-8 with an earned run average of 4.75. It was largely attributable to his pitching fluctuating to the extent that he gave up 62 walks during 91 innings.
The results were painful. After the season, he signed a free agent (FA) with NC for 2+1 years, up to 900 million won, but was excluded from the first team spring camp list in Tucson, Arizona, USA in February. This was the first time Lee Jae-hak experienced after joining NC.
At the time, NC coach Kang In-kwon said he wanted to see the young players in person, and he asked for his understanding and asked him to prepare well as a starting pitcher. Accordingly, Lee Jae-hak prepared for the season at Masan Baseball Stadium instead of the United States.
Lee Jae-hak, who met with a reporter during the Futures League match against the Lotte Giants Futures (2nd team) team held at Masan Baseball Stadium on the 4th, said, “It’s okay because it’s been so long ago. It was better to prepare than to be upset. I was preparing the same,” he looked back at the time.
Lee Jae-hak sweated during the off-season, but unfortunately did not make it to the opening entry, and until recently he was active in the Futures League. Until the game on the 6th, his performance was not bad with an average ERA of 2.31, 1 win and 1 loss in 5 appearances. In particular, it is noticeable that his pitching is stable enough to allow only 12 walks during 23.1 innings. He currently has a maximum speed of 144 km, so if he refines his pitch more, he can be successful in the first team.
Lee Jae-hak said, “I was reducing my walks, but in the previous game (April 28, against the Hanwha Eagles, 5 innings, 1 hit, 4 walks, no runs), I gave up a lot,” but “I think I’m throwing it okay. (From the off-season until now) I tried to supplement my pitching. He’s thinking of cutting down on his walks. He seems to be paying the most attention to that part as he throws in the Futures League.”
He said, “Rather than worrying about other things, I also put a point on throwing my ball from the mound. (Focus is) throwing my ball and my first pitch. Last year, no matter who sees it, it was because that was the most regrettable part,” he said. “I am aware of that too. I am focusing on that part the most. It’s not that I care, but I’m trying to reduce (walks) as much as possible.”
NC C Team (NC Futures Team) head coach Gong Pil-seong and pitching coach Son Jeong-wook are helping Lee Jae-hak physically and mentally for his revival.
Lee Jae-hak said, “(Coach Gong Pil-seong) supports me so that I can comfortably do what I want to do,” and “Coach Son Jung-wook, who was a player until last year, is the same age as me. Now it is between the coach and the players, but he is preparing well while receiving feedback while communicating comfortably.”
Initially, Lee Jae-hak was given a chance to start for the first team this weekend for the first time this season. On the 3rd, right-handed pitcher Song Myeong-ki was dropped from the first-team entry, and NC coach Kang In-kwon mentioned Lee Jae-hak along with Jeong Goo-beom as a replacement candidate. However, as the games on the 4th and 5th were canceled due to rain and the starting rotation was pushed back, the possibility of Lee Jae-hak’s call-up to the first team was somewhat dimmed.
Lee Jae-hak said, “I also heard (the news that he might be able to pitch in the first team). But (during the weekend), it’s raining, so I don’t know yet.” I’m trying to prepare the same as I used to.”
Franchise star Lee Jae-hak, who has been with NC from 스포츠토토 its inception until now, has many records in the NC club’s pitching category, including NC’s first winning pitcher, first shutout, first complete game, and first rookie king. Lee Jae-hak also holds the most wins (76 wins) in NC history.
Regarding his past glory, Lee Jae-hak said, “I forgot everything now. It’s been too long… After smiling awkwardly, he said, “After seeing it, I don’t know. The present is important. The glory of the past is important, but the present is the most important.”
Finally, he said, “My goal is to be in the first team. You have to go up to the first team (in the future) to achieve a record for grades. I am preparing hard,” he said. “(Futures League) is the same baseball. I am working hard to make up for what I lack in the Futures League. If the opportunity comes, I will prepare hard to save well.”