Promises kept, upgrades made, SSG has a new second baseman

SSG head coach Lee Sung-yong gave Ahn Sang-hyun (27) a task at the beginning of the team’s first camp in Florida. He said it was a promise he made to himself during the camp. It was mainly about the amount of practice. It was a suggestion that some players might consider a little more than others, but Ahn didn’t hesitate to say “yes,” and he was motivated.

SSG still hasn’t decided on a starting second baseman this year. Choi Joo-hwan (Kiwoom), the starting second baseman last year, left in the second round of the draft. Lee initially planned to utilize Kim Sung-hyun, who many would have thought was next in line, as an all-weather backup in the infield. Instead, he pushed younger players to compete. “The second base position is still open, so take your chances,” he told Ahn Sang-hyun, Choi Jun-woo, Kim Chan-hyung, Kim Sung-min, and others.

As with all the other athletes, there are reasons to have high expectations for Ahn Sang-hyun. First of all, he is one of the oldest players in the competition. He also has first-team experience. He was relatively close to the first team to begin with. It was easy for him to adapt to the first team. In addition, Lee had a high opinion of Ahn’s talent. He had a good sense of defense and was quick on his feet. He believed he could get closer to the kind of baseball he wanted to play by playing at No. 9. The key was offense and concentration. If he didn’t have that, he wouldn’t be a starter, no matter how ideal he was.

Lee believed that the only way to improve was to practice. That’s why he ordered the team to increase the amount of batting practice. He knew that it was difficult to swing late in the evening after a daily team practice. Ahn’s willingness to give it a try might have been part of the deal. So far, has he kept his promise? “Yes, he has. I haven’t missed a single one,” he said with a laugh. He also emphasized, “I can be proud that I have kept my promise to myself.”

Ahn brought a smile to Lee’s face with a big hit in the first practice game of the camp on Aug. 18 (KST). Ahn batted second in the starting nine for the backup team, which was dominated by veterans. That doesn’t necessarily mean he’s ahead of the competition for a starting spot, but it’s a glimpse into the expectations. And he did, with two hits in the offense. Ahn was also named the scrimmage’s Most Valuable Player (MVP). SSG manager Kim Jae-hyun also said after the game that Ahn “got a little better”. This was the highest praise from Kim, who is usually very conservative in his player evaluations.

You’ve worked hard. But if you don’t get the results, you get discouraged. So it was an important first scrimmage. My worries were put to rest in the first at-bat of the second inning. It was more than I expected. I took a pitch that came in towards me, timed it right, and hit it in front of the right fielder. His second at-bat in the fourth inning was more of the same. He picked up a pitch that was in the zone and lined it to right field for another quality hit.

“That’s his strength and sense,” Lee said. He’s a center-field hitter, so he has an advantage on the body. He just needs to improve his ability to handle the outside 안전놀이터 ball. He has improved a lot now,” he said. In his third at-bat of the sixth inning, he got a good look at a falling changeup that was well-timed and sent it well out of the park, although it was only a fly ball to left field.

In fact, he’s been an on-again, off-again prospect until now. At one point, he even auditioned for the team’s shortstop position, but there were times when he didn’t get the best reviews. In the meantime, he kept getting older. Now, he’s too old to be called a prospect. However, the new coaching staff thinks very highly of his talent, and they conveyed this opinion during the actual interview process. Having someone who believes in him and will give him a chance if he does well has opened his eyes. The result is a smooth camp.

After the game, Ahn said, “I trained a lot on hitting. I really did a lot. It’s the first time I’ve trained so much since my debut,” he said, adding, “I wasn’t hitting well until I played a live game last week. But I kept going with the idea that live games and practice games are different. It worked out because I was more focused in practice. I’m satisfied.” He saw that his efforts were not in vain and that he could do well if he worked hard. This will serve as another motivation for the rest of the camp. SSG’s new starting second baseman is picking up speed.

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