“I always thought (Jang) Won-jun was the best baseball player.”
This is what Doosan Bears veteran shortstop Kim Jae-ho (38) said to his fellow left-hander legend Jang Won-jun (38), who announced his retirement. Wonjun Jang announced the news of his retirement through the club on the 28th. After finishing his season, Jang Won-jun visited the club and announced his intention to retire from active duty. The club plans to hold related events, such as a retirement ceremony, in consultation with Jang Won-jun at a later date.
Wonjun Jang was a promising player who graduated from Busan High School in 2004 and joined the Lotte Giants as a first round pick. He played as a left-handed ace at Lotte until 2014, and then signed a four-year free agent contract with Doosan for 8.4 billion won and transferred ahead of the 2015 season. And he established himself as a ‘bok-dong’ by leading Doosan to win the Korean Series for two consecutive years in 2015 and 2016. In 2016, he formed a strong starting lineup with ace Dustin Nippert (21 wins), Michael Bowden (18 wins), and Yoo Hee-gwan (15 wins), and was called the ‘Fantastic Four’. Jang Won-jun achieved 15 wins that year, and the four starters combined for a whopping 69 wins, and both Jang Won-jun and Doosan enjoyed their peak.
Wonjun Jang had a difficult time, falling into a long slump for five years from 2018 to last year. He attempted to change his position by switching to the bullpen starting in 2021, but it was not a perfect fit for Jang Won-jun. When Doosan coach Lee Seung-yeop took office this year, he said he would entrust the starting position to Jang Won-jun again. Instead, he hoped to add strength as a replacement starting pitcher who can fill the vacancy at any time when a hole occurs in the starting lineup.
Wonjun Jang fully lived up to his expectations. He appeared in 11 games this year (1 game in relief) and recorded 3 wins, 5 losses, 41 innings, and an ERA of 5.27. On May 23rd, he achieved his dream of reaching his 130th win by allowing 7 hits, no 4 walks, 4 strikeouts, and 4 runs in 5 innings against the Jamsil Samsung Lions, and was selected against the Incheon SSG Landers on the 17th, which was Doosan’s final game of this year’s regular season. He took the mound and allowed 5 runs in 4⅓ innings. Although he suffered a loss, he ended his long professional career by reaching 2,000 innings in his career. His professional career records include 446 games, 132 wins, 119 losses, 1 save, 14 holds, 2,000 innings, and an ERA of 4.28.
Although his finish was not spectacular, he left his mark as the best left-handed pitcher of all time in the KBO League. He left his mark as the 11th pitcher in KBO history and the 4th left-hander in history to achieve 130 wins. At 37 years, 9 months, and 22 days old, he became the oldest left-handed pitcher with 130 wins. Including right-handed pitchers, he ranks second after KIA Lim Chang-yong (September 29, 2018, Gwangju Hanwha game, 42 years, 3 months, 25 days). 2,000 innings is also a record that only 9 players, including Jang Won-jun, have achieved in KBO League history. He took off his uniform with ease, leaving behind records befitting his nickname ‘Jang Ku-jun’.
Kim Jae-ho was the player who most closely watched Jang Won-jun’s prime. He was also a player of the same age, and spent his prime with Jang Won-jun as a shortstop, firmly guarding his back. He played a leading role in the dynasty, lifting the championship trophy three times in 2015, 2016, and 2019. Kim Jae-ho’s free agent contract ended at the end of this season, and he was at a crossroads in extending his career, but he decided to play for one more season. In the meantime, I was very disappointed to hear the news of his friend Jang Won-jun’s retirement.
Kim Jae-ho said, “I think he is the player who achieved the best results among his peers. I really respect him as a friend, and he has achieved great achievements. There were difficult times at the end, but I always thought of Won-jun as the best baseball player. There will always be pitchers like Won-jun Jang in the future.” “I hope he continues to come out, and I hope he becomes the type of Jang Won-jun who can be of great help to the development of baseball in the future,” he said, adding, “You’ve worked hard so far.”
The reason Kim Jae-ho gave Jang Won-jun the thumbs up was not simply because of his grades. Jang Won-jun was selected as the player who trained hardest in the Doosan pitcher group right before he took off his uniform. Among the fielders, the representative practice bug is Kim Jae-hwan, while the pitcher is Jang Won-jun.
The reason why Doosan continued to give Jang Won-jun opportunities even after he had been in a slump for five years was because of his sincere attitude. Even though I went to the stadium every day in the winter to train and prepare for the season by getting in shape more thoroughly than anyone else, the club felt even more sad when there were no results. Jang Won-Jun was able to get three more wins by using a two-seam fastball, thinking that it would be his last game before this season, and thanks to his hard work until the end, he was able to come off the mound without any regrets.
In addition to Kim Jae-ho, catcher Yang Eui-ji and captain Heo Gyeong-min, who were part of the Doosan dynasty, also sent messages of support to Jang Won-jun. Yang Eui-ji said, “I will support Wonjun’s life from now on. I want to tell him that he has worked hard so far, and I want to congratulate him on a good day. I knew that he was retiring, but now that it has been announced, I am touched. Wonjun. “Thanks to my brother, I was able to win, and I made a lot of good memories. It was nice to come back to the team and achieve the record that Wonjun wanted to achieve together,” he said.
Heo Gyeong-min said, “The players gathered together for a while recently and briefly talked about the hard work Won-jun has had. Everyone quits baseball, but since he was a player who was with our team in his prime, my heart is heavier than anyone else’s retirement. Still, he worked very hard. “I will be starting my baseball career, and I hope Wonjun will continue to achieve something like his older brother. I will support him no matter what he does, whether he becomes a good leader or not,” he said emphatically.
Doosan is now waiting for a left-hander to succeed Jang Won-jun. Prior to Jang Won-jun, Yoo Hee-gwan, the first Doosan franchise left-hander to achieve 100 wins (101 wins), also retired at the end of the 2021 season. Since the left-handed duo that led the dynasty have all retired, we are eagerly anticipating the emergence of the next generation.
As of now, it appears that Choi Seung-yong will take over Jang Won-jun’s baton. Choi Seung-yong recorded 3 wins, 6 losses, 1 save, 111 innings, and an ERA of 3.97 in 34 games this season. He did not meet expectations in the first half, but the second half was good. He gained confidence as he performed well in 15 games in the second half of the year with 47⅓ innings and an ERA of 1.90. Coach Lee views Choi Seung-yong as a top left-handed starting candidate next season.
Fastball left-hander Lee Byung-hun, who was selected in the first round in 2022, is expected to prepare to become a left-hander next year as well. If Choi Seung-yong enters the starting lineup, there will be a shortage of left-handed bullpens, so Byung-hun Lee will have to help next year. His records this season were 36 games, 5 holds, 27 innings, and an ERA of 4.67. Doosan desperately hopes that Choi Seung-yong and Lee Byung-hun will grow into major players like Jang Won-jun.메이저사이트
Jang Won-jun took off his beloved uniform and said, “I am grateful to owner Park Jeong-won, who allowed me to start my second baseball career with a free agent contract and gave me more opportunities when I was having a hard time due to injury. I feel relieved because I achieved the last goal I personally set,” he said. “When I think about my juniors, I rarely lose my pace. There are many talented juniors on our team, so I will support them to train diligently and lead the team to a leap forward,” he said with a hint of encouragement.