Korean baseball was once known as the ‘stage of the 1982 generation’.
Choo Shin-soo (SSG Landers), Lee Dae-ho, Kim Tae-gyun, Jung Geun-woo (retired) and other players of their age who made a ‘mark’ on Korean baseball led the game both at home and abroad.
But the years have not been kind to them either.
Kim Tae-gyun and Jeong Geun-woo said goodbye to baseball in 2020 and Lee Dae-ho in 2022.
Pitcher Oh Seung-hwan (Samsung Lions), born in 1982, has also had his ups and downs this season.
Seung-hwan Oh, the oldest pitcher in the KBO, was relieved of his closer’s duties after an extremely difficult start to the season, with a string of blown saves.
Those around him said, “Oh Seung-hwan is getting old.
There was even talk of Seung-hwan preparing to retire.
He will become a free agent (FA) for the last time this season, and it was expected that he would not be able to overcome the limitations of age and finish his career as it is.
However, in May, Seung-hwan Oh experimented with all sorts of things in order to make a comeback, including pitching as a starter 19 years after his debut.
At the ripe old age of 40, Oh Seung-hwan left all his pride behind and started from the bottom, returning to the closer’s role and impressing fans in June when he became the first Korean-American to record 500 saves.
The 2023 season was full of challenges.
Seung-hwan’s insecurities were still on display, and when he couldn’t find his old form despite all his efforts, his insides burned.
In a game against KT WIZ on 16 June, he nervously threw the ball and slammed his glove in response to the bench’s grating instructions.
Fans were shocked, as Seung-hwan usually doesn’t show his emotions.
Seung-hwan Oh was sent down to the second team, and the word “retirement” surfaced again.
Seung-hwan Oh literally fought to the death. He gritted his teeth, believing that he could make a comeback.
Samsung coach Park Jin-man, who sent him to the second team, encouraged him, saying, “I heard that he trained harder than anyone else in the second team.”
Oh didn’t give up.
He knew he couldn’t defy time, but he didn’t want to end his career the same way.
He tried everything he could under the circumstances.
Little by little, he started to come back to life. Surprisingly for a 41-year-old, Seung-hwan’s form improved from August, when the heat wave hit.
His body wasn’t what it used to be, but his focus and heart remained the same.
He was back to his old self in August, appearing in 13 games in relief and recording 10 saves.
The upward trend continued. In September, he was outstanding, posting a 1.04 ERA in eight games.
The 400-save milestone in the KBO seemed far away.
In a double-header against the Lotte Giants on the 2nd, he was at his best, closing both games and collecting two saves.
Soon, Oh’s career saves in the KBO reached 399.
The chance to reach 400 saves was not going to come easily.
Against the KT Wiz on the 5th of this month, after leading 5-2, they added a run in the top of the ninth inning to make it a four-run deficit.
Since then, Samsung has lost three straight games and is down to just two games remaining this season.
Seung-hwan Oh doesn’t have much time left. No one was sure if he would be able to keep the closer’s job next year or even stay in the game.
On the 14th, Samsung played its final home game of the season against SSG at Daegu Samsung Lions Park in front of a sold-out crowd of 24,000.
The game was not easy. Samsung was down 1-3 going into the sixth inning.
But the Samsung juniors rallied for Oh Seung-hwan.
In the bottom of the sixth, they scored three runs in dramatic fashion to make it 4-3, and it was up to Seung-hwan to save the game.
Seung-hwan Oh took the mound earlier than usual. In the top of the eighth inning, the tying run was on second base.
His opponent was his friend Choo Shin-soo. Seung-hwan Oh threw a ‘fastball’ on a full count.
Shin-soo Choo reacted, and the ball flew to first base. Samsung’s first baseman Lee Sung-kyu threw himself to make the catch.
Seung-hwan Oh, who was expressionless, smiled and grabbed Lee’s hand.
Seung-hwan Oh was again on the mound in the top of the ninth inning with a 5-3 lead.
With runners on first and second, his pitch count exceeded 30 pitches. But no one could stop him.
He worked a full count against the final batter, Park Sung-hwan, and after striking him out with a straight hit to left field, he hugged catcher Kang Min-ho and smiled broadly.
All the Samsung players went up to the mound to congratulate Oh Seung-hwan. 슬롯사이트