4 for 4…’MVP Mode’ at its best “I’m getting comfortable at the plate”
His consistency is unrivaled, and his hitting is unrivaled in his 19th year as a professional.
SSG slugger Choi Jung, 36, is on pace for his best season since making his professional debut in 2005. As of June 26, he leads the league in home runs (19), RBIs (54), runs scored (62), and on-base percentage (.601). While not an official award, his OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) is the only one in the league above 10 percent (1.001), even in a two-hitter. In particular, his 11 home runs and 23 RBIs in the first three months of the year have really turned the tide in the batting order, which has been dominated by catcher Park Dong-won (LG).
“At the beginning of the season, I had a lot of anxiety because it was hard to get my timing right, but now I feel like I’m ready when I step up to the plate,” Choi said during a recent interview at SSG Landers Field in Incheon. “I feel more stable and comfortable at the plate because I’m hitting long balls well.”
When Choi’s batting average dropped to .275 in April, he didn’t feel overwhelmed, as Ji-hoon Choi and Guillermo Heredia picked up the slack. “Heredia did a great job, especially in the No. 4 spot,” he said, “so there’s less pressure on me to get things done up front.”
Despite winning five Korean Series titles and eight Golden Gloves, he has always emphasized that he is not greedy for individual titles. “There’s only one goal I set before every season: double-digit home runs. This stacked up to 18 consecutive seasons of double-digit home runs, the longest in the league. “I didn’t want to break that record,” Choi said with a smile, “In fact, when I saw how I was hitting at the start of this season, I thought double-digit home runs would be easy.”
With 448 career home runs, Choi needs just two more to become the second player in history to reach the 450-homer plateau, behind only Lee Seung-yeop (467). At his current rate of home run production, he could surpass Lee for the most career home runs within the year. The record for most career RBIs (1,501), held by KIA’s Choi Hyung-woo (40), is also likely to be broken by Choi, who is four years younger. “When I think back to the past, I wonder how I did it,” Choi said, “I can’t even believe it.” “I’ve been really lucky,” he said, “I’ve had a lot of opportunities since I was a kid, and I haven’t had any major injuries.”
However, Choi says you can’t fake your age. “I can definitely feel it now,” he says, “that after a year, after a year, it’s harder on my body and my ability to recover. When my body sags, it’s hard to pull it back up,” he confessed. Still, he can’t give up defending third base. Choi Jung, the third baseman, represents her reason for being. “Playing third base means I’m still moving,” Choi said, “and I’d rather play third base than designated hitter because I’m doing my job by playing defense.” To make sure he doesn’t slow down, he trains to improve his speed and goes for short runs in between.메이저놀이터
Choi is also open about being called the “Choi Jeong Wyverns” and “Choi Jeong Landers” due to his reliance on Choi since his days with SK. “It’s a bit overwhelming, but I’ve gotten past that,” he said. “It means you’re good, so it makes me feel more responsible and helpful to the team.