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Former KBO draft pick seeking new opportunity in Australia

All Headlines 17:48 September 17, 2018

GWANGJU, South Korea, Sept. 17 (Yonhap) -- At an open tryout for a new, all-Korean club in the Australian Baseball League (ABL) held here on Monday, right-hander Jang Jin-yong was, at 32, the oldest participant.

It's an age when some players start contemplating a retirement. But Jang, a former draft pick by the LG Twins in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), said he isn't done playing baseball -- not by a long shot.

"I came here because I really wanted to play ball," Jang said after he and 94 other pitchers threw on the mound before club officials at Team Up Campus in Gwangju, Gyeonggi Province, just south of Seoul. "I just have to play baseball because it's all I've been doing my whole life."

The new ABL club, which will join the league for the 2018-2019 season, beginning in November, is there exactly for players like Jang, who was cut by the Twins in November last year.

Former Korea Baseball Organization pitcher Jang Jin-yong throws on the mound during an open tryout for a new Korean club in the Australian Baseball League at Team Up Campus in Gwangju, Gyeonggi Province, on Sept. 17, 2018. (Yonhap)

Jang was the territorial pick by the Seoul-based Twins in 2004 and made his KBO debut that same year. In the territorial draft, teams typically select the top prospect out of high schools or colleges in their regions, and Jang carried high expectations 14 years ago.

He never lived up to his billing in the KBO, making just 44 appearances between 2004 and 2016 and going 3-7 with a 7.15 ERA.

Jang instead thrived in the second-tier Futures League. He led the league in wins in 2009 and 2010 and then was the ERA champion for three straight years starting in 2014.

Even after getting booted by the Twins, Jang said he never stopped training on his own.

"I feel fine physically," he said. "I don't think I threw as well today as I have done in some games, but I did the best I could."

The new team will be managed by Koo Dae-sung, former MVP-winning pitcher from the KBO. Its inaugural general manager is another ex-KBO pitcher, Park Choong-sik.

Koo said he and Park will both double as pitching coaches during the season, and Jang said he was hoping to learn more about the craft under those two.

"I signed up for the tryout because I think there's so much good that can come out of it," Jang said. "I think it'll be a great experience to face foreign hitters in the ABL."

Jang said he was disappointed with himself that his Twins career didn't turn out the way he'd hoped, but he has also started looking ahead.

"My biggest goal is to finish a season in the ABL and then report to spring training for a KBO club," Jang said. "I won't give up on baseball."

In this file photo from June 24, 2016, Jang Jin-yong of the LG Twins throws a pitch against the Nexen Heroes in a Korea Baseball Organization regular season game at Jamsil Stadium in Seoul. (Yonhap)

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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