“I’m going to be the guy who doesn’t fall from grace.”
A new face could be added to the ‘Catcher’s Kingdom’. Park Yoo-yeon (24, Dusan Bears) has taken over the offensive duties of national team catcher Yang Yang-ji, at least for a day.
Park started in the No. 8 spot in the lineup against the Samsung Lions in the 2023 KBO League regular season at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul on Monday, going 2-for-3 with a double, an RBI and a run scored in the Bears’ 5-3 win.
Park, who joined Doosan through the 2017 rookie draft, was a backup catcher with just five hits in his first-team career before this game. With a solid catching staff that included Yang Ji-soo and Park Se-hyuk, Park struggled to make an impact. However, he showed some promise in the Futures (second-tier) league, hitting .305 in 43 games in 2018 and .290 in 51 games in 2019.
Then a spot opened up in the first team. After signing a 4+2 year, up to 15.2 billion won deal to return to his hometown team and lead the team’s batting order, Yang was suddenly sidelined with a side injury. He is expected to be out for 2-3 weeks. Yang’s absence was a crisis for the team, but also an opportunity for younger catchers to be tested.
Park Yoo-yeon has successfully taken the first step in that direction. After getting her first at-bat of the year with a single against the KT Wiz on June 6, Park’s offensive performance on the eighth was enough to convince manager Lee Seung-yeop to give her a shot.
Speaking to the media after the win, Park said, “Against KT, I came out late in the game, and I was very nervous. After that inning, I felt relaxed, but I had played a little bit last year, so I was able to relax right away,” she said, recalling her six-day stint. “My parents called me yesterday and said, ‘Don’t be nervous and do well,’ and I think I did well,” he smiled when asked if he had contacted his family about the call-up.
“There was pressure, but my coaches and my brothers told me, ‘Don’t go out there and try to be too good, just do what you’re doing and show (your skills),’ so it was easy,” he said. Did she have any advice from Yang Ji Won? “He just hit it and didn’t say anything,” Park laughed.
The double was his first hit in his first-team debut. “Actually, I didn’t think it would go that far because I didn’t see the whole ball after I hit it,” Park said. “I wanted to do weight training at least once more, so it would have gone over the fence. It was the first time I hit it so well. I thought I hit it with the strike point in front of me, and I guess I did. It felt good,” he laughed.
On defense, she teamed up with Young Gun Choi to help her team 스포츠토토 win. Park Yoo-yeon said, “I talked a lot with Seung-ri before the match today. I took an aggressive lead in the early stages because he had so many good pitches. He was confident and followed along well,” Park explained.
Park’s goal is not to stay in the first team as a substitute for a while. He wants to be able to compete for the first team backup position and, as is typical of a Doosan player in the catcher’s kingdom, he has big dreams. “At the beginning of the season, I couldn’t hit too well, so I practiced a lot. When I came out and hit by myself (in training), it improved naturally,” he said, adding, “I will not fall from here and become a player who hits more.”