There is a youthful breeze on the mound of the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO). Yoon Young-cheol, who is already being talked about as a Rookie of the Year candidate, and Choi Ji-min, who is wearing his first taegeuk, are the main icons. There’s a hidden card to follow. Kwak Do-gyu (19), a left-hander who was selected by KIA in the fifth round of the 2023 rookie draft out of Gongju.
He is a high school rookie, but his delivery on the mound is exceptional. His dynamic pitching form stands out. He has a rare left-handed three-quarter, 메이저놀이터 almost sidearm delivery, but he also throws a powerful fastball. His fastball reached 152 mph on the scoreboard against the Gwangju KT last month.
He hasn’t been wearing his current form for long. “I read a lot of articles and they all said different things. “I made the decision after consulting with coach Gong Joo-ju and Gil Tae-gon,” he said, “when I switched from the overthrow to my current form exactly two months before the draft. They analyzed that my side-to-side rotation is stronger than my up-and-down rotation, so they told me to lower my arm angle to take advantage of that.”
It wasn’t easy to make a decision ahead of the draft with his future on the line. “When I was an overthrower, I was getting some attention from scouts, but as the draft got closer, my balance got worse. “If I stayed the way I was, I was psychologically unstable because I knew that my pro draft and college career would be in jeopardy,” he says. “So I took a gamble. It was a gamble. I had a really good relationship with my coach, so I decided to take a chance, and it worked out,” he says, adding that he is grateful to his mentor.
“It was a form that felt like I was wearing my own clothes, like I hadn’t felt comfortable playing neighborhood baseball in years. I used to have a lot of thoughts and stress when throwing the ball, but with the change, I trusted the ball and gained confidence.”
There are also unspoken concerns. “I’m worried that I’ll lose the competition and become known as the guy with his arms down. I’m not trying to be special, I’m just trying to find a comfortable place to throw the ball,” he said, adding, “It’s nice to have the perception that I can catch lefties with a special form, but I’m not going to be that way.” He is also determined.
His mentality is not that of a rookie. Kia manager Kim Jong-guk said, “He’s not a quitter. He is a pitcher who knows how to fight with batters.” “When I was younger, I would fight with myself instead of fighting with the batter, and I would often self-destruct. I realized how bad that was when I came to the pros. Above all, experiencing the support of the fans in the stadium gave me courage. I think that changed my personality,” Kwak smiled brightly.
Finally, when asked what kind of player he wants to be in the future, he said, “I want to be a pitcher who stays in the first team for a long time and feels safe when I go to the mound, and I want to be a positive calculation for the manager.”