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When we asked Coach Choi about his appearance on “Strongest Baseball,” he said

Lotte Giants ace Choi Joong-hoon, who made a name for himself with his ‘forkball’ game, is now coaching the baseball team at his alma mater, Masan Yongma High School. Masan Yongma High School’s affiliated team is the NC Dinos. However, Masan Yongma High School also has a strong connection to the Lotte Giants.

Until the NC Dinos were founded, the Lotte Giants were the club’s affiliated team, and Yoo Du-yeol and Han Moon-yeon, who played a big role in the Lotte Giants winning the Korean Series in 1984, graduated from Masan Yongma High School. Currently, Jeong-hoon, Na Gyun-an, and Lee Seung-heon are all former Masan Yongmago players in the Lotte Giants organization.

Coach Cho ended his playing career with the Lotte Giants after the 2018 season. We were curious to know which players he has his eye on for the current Lotte Giants. However, the interviewer’s answer was a bit unexpected.

[Busan Baseball Report]

I know you’re busy with your high school coaching job, but are there any LOTTE players you have your eye on?

[Coach Jo Jung-hoon]

Actually, I don’t watch professional baseball games very often because I personally still feel a little bit like that. I sometimes watch it, but I think it’s Na Gyun-an, because he’s a junior in school and we’ve worked together in a battery together in a procedure. Every time I watch it, I think, ‘He throws really well’.

[Busan Baseball Report].

When you returned in 2017, you experienced fall baseball one more time as the Lotte Giants made it to the semi-playoffs. You eventually retired in 2018, how did you feel at the time?

[Coach Choi Joong-hoon]

Actually, it was more of a release than a retirement, and I think it happened because I was lacking a lot at the time. I just accepted the situation as it was.

It was clear that Cho still missed the mound, as he left the organization with a deep sense of regret and was released without a proper farewell to the fans. He pitched well in the second half of 2017, helping the team reach the semifinals, so fans thought they’d get to see him pitch in 2018, but he only pitched seven games in the 2018 season. But the opportunity came out of nowhere. A trailer for the popular JTBC entertainment program “Strongest Baseball,” which is not part of the KBO, showed Cho pitching as a player. And since the opposing batter was Lee Dae-ho, baseball fans were even more excited. How does Coach Cho recall that time?

[Busan Baseball Story]

Recently, you appeared on the mound as a pitcher for the Masan Yongmago on the Strongest Baseball program. You made the hearts of many Lotte fans and baseball fans flutter, but how was it after a long time?

[Coach Jo Jung-hoon]

It was a very meaningful time for me. When I stopped playing baseball, I didn’t have time to say hello to many fans because I disappeared, so I didn’t have time to be with them, but I think it was very meaningful to have this opportunity to show them me for the last time and have time to say hello to them.

I think the highlight of the broadcast was the matchup with Lee Dae-ho. In 2009, you were the ace of the team and Lee Dae-ho was the No. 4 hitter, so we didn’t play against each other unless it was a blue-and-white game, but this time we played against each other.

[Coach Jo Jung-hoon]

First of all, it was an exciting moment because the situation itself was so exciting, and it was fun to see how it unfolded, even though we didn’t intentionally set it up that way. I think I was looking forward to it, and I think I was just enjoying it, and I was like, “Let’s just have fun with it, because it might not come around again.

At the time of the broadcast, Cho pitched a scoreless inning. His velocity was in the mid 130 kilometers per hour and his forkball, which was his main weapon in his active career, was sharp. Immediately after the broadcast, many fans wished that Coach Cho would play one more game for the Monsters. So, what are Coach Cho’s thoughts?

[Busan Baseball Report]

Some fans even want him to join the Monsters as a player. Of course, it’s up to you to decide, but would you be willing to accept an offer if it came your way? (Laughs)

[Coach Jo Jung-hoon]

I have no reason to refuse.(Laughs) If given the opportunity, of course I would like to do it. If the fans can get pleasure from me, I would like to do my best.

[Busan Baseball Reporter]

Personally, as a baseball fan, I would love to see ‘Player Jo Jung-hoon’ once again. If you get the chance, I hope you can appear in the program.(Laughs)

Masan Yongma High School is a school that has been doing well in the draft, producing professional players every year. This year, the school is home to Jang Hyun-seok, the biggest pitcher in baseball, who is expected to be drafted first overall. It is the responsibility of a high school baseball coach to sincerely guide as many players as possible to the pros, so what are Coach Cho’s goals as a coach and leader?

[Busan Baseball].

What kind of player does Cho want to develop as a coach?

[Coach Cho]

When I teach my students, I value the basics the most, and I want them to grow into players with solid fundamentals. I believe that having solid fundamentals can be the foundation for a player to grow as a player later on, so I put a lot of emphasis on coaching my players to grow into players with solid fundamentals.

Recently, Masan Yongma High School has been making waves in the national tournament. They are sending good players to the pros every year, and Jang Hyun-seok, who currently plays for Masan Yongma High School, is a player who is very likely to be selected as the No. 1 overall pick in the KBO Draft. Please show off your players.

[Coach Jo Jung-hoon].

That’s the hardest question I’ve been asked today. (Laughs) When they enter the stadium, they are fearless and do their best in every game. I am very satisfied with their attitude, even when they go to the national championship game, they don’t hesitate to play with confidence.

[Busan Baseball Report]

What is the end goal that coach Choi Joong-hoon has for the team?

[Coach Jo Jung-hoon]

Ultimately, my goal is to foster my students well and have many of them go to the pros. However, my goal is not to stop there, but to teach them to be better players even if they go to the pros.

[Busan Baseball].

Finally, would you like to say something to the many fans who still miss ‘Jo Jung-hoon’?안전놀이터

During my baseball career, I received a lot of love and support from the fans. Thanks to that, I was able to leave a lot of good memories during my active career, and I was able to enjoy every game. For that, I have a lot of gratitude. And if I ever get another chance to say hello, I’ll do it again and do it in a better way, so thank you very much.

In his professional career, Choi compiled a record of 29 wins, 19 losses, and 12 holds in eight seasons. That might not seem like a lot for an all-time great. However, Coach Cho still holds a special place in the hearts of many fans, just as much as players who have won over 100 games in their professional careers. That’s because his performances from the second half of the 2008 season to the 2009 semi-finals were so spectacular. It’s a testament to his popularity that when he returned to the mound in 2017 after a six-year hiatus, many fans hadn’t forgotten about him.

Jang Hyun-seok (Amateur Quarter) will join Na Kyun-an (Lotte Giants) as the two Yongmago alumni to represent Korea at the Hangzhou Asian Games in September. And with the KBO Rookie Draft coming up on Sept. 14, there’s a lot on Coach Cho’s shoulders. Will Coach Cho’s leadership be as notable as his sharp ‘forkball’ during his playing days?

For a more detailed interview with Coach Cho, check out the video.

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