Right-handed pitcher Moon Dong-ju (19) of the Hanwha Eagles of the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) won the 2023 KBO League Rookie of the Year award on Sunday, bringing an end to Hanwha’s developmental dark ages.
Hanwha did not produce a rookie winner from 2006 until last year, when Ryu Hyun-jin won both the Most Valuable Player (MVP) and Rookie of the Year awards, breaking a 17-year drought.
“The trophy is heavy, and I think I’ll have to bear the weight well,” Moon said after receiving the Rookie of the Year trophy at the 2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO Awards ceremony at the Grand Ballroom of the Westin Chosun Hotel in Seoul.
“It’s been 17 years since Ryu Hyun-jin won the Rookie of the Year award, and I’ll give this honor to the (Hanwha) fans,” he added.
In fact, Hanwha has had its fair share of Rookie of the Year winners over the years. From 2009 to last year, the team finished last eight times, giving them plenty of opportunities to draft a top pick in the rookie draft.
However, Hanwha failed to nurture them time and again. Most of its rookies never made it to the professional ranks and faded into memory.
In 2018, the team released its first-round pick, pitcher Sung Si-heon, after just one year in the organization.
Luck was just as bad as development. Hanwha’s first-round draft system, which prioritizes local talent, has often resulted in the team missing out on talented players from across the country.
In addition, with the creation of the NC Dinos and KT Wiz, the team lost several top picks.
Hanwha’s prolonged dark ages are also largely attributed to the failure of prospects.
This makes Moon’s Rookie of the Year award all the more meaningful.
Hanwha fans see Moon as a “terminator” who will bring the dark ages to a close.
Moon joined Hanwha with the first pick in the 2022 Rookie Draft in August 2021 and has flourished since.
At the time, Hanwha selected Moon, who attended Gwangju Jeongnam High School, through the nationwide selection method under the changed rookie draft rules after the Kia Tigers selected Gwangju Dongseong High infielder Kim Do-young.
With such a high-profile pick, Hanwha focused its entire organization on developing Moon.
Hanwha head coach Choi Won-ho even personally taught Moon a changeup in 2022 when he was the second team manager.
Before the start of the year, Hanwha limited Moon’s personal maximum to 120 innings. This was to protect him from injury.
Moon has lived up to expectations and has established himself as Hanwha’s next ace pitcher.
In 23 regular-season appearances this year, he went 8-8 with a 3.72 ERA and created a lot of buzz by becoming the first pitcher in KBO history to throw a fastball in the 160s.
That’s not all. Moon also proved his international competitiveness at the 2022 Hangzhou Asian Games, serving as the ace of the Korean National Team.
He pitched six innings of three-hit ball, striking out seven and walking none in a 2-0 victory over Chinese Taipei in the gold medal game.
He also started the first game of the 2023 Asian Professional Baseball Championship (APBC) against Australia on April 16, giving up two runs on five hits (one home run), four walks and five strikeouts in 5⅔ innings over 102 pitches.
Moon is growing beyond the Hanwha and into the future of Korean baseball.
Fans see a bright blueprint in Moon’s meteoric rise.
In reality, Moon hasn’t been pitching for very long.
He started pitching in earnest as a sophomore in high school, and didn’t begin to develop his changeup and other pitches until his junior year of high school.
Moon didn’t focus on mechanics until then. Influenced by his father, Moon Jun-hum, the head coach of the Jangheung County Athletic Team, he stuck to the basics, such as pitching form and lower body muscle training.
After growing calmly step by step, Moon finally began to blossom.
Moon’s era is about to begin. 파워볼사이트