By Yoo Jee-ho
SEOUL, June 9 (Yonhap) -- Lee Jung-hoo, the reigning MVP in the top South Korean baseball league, will lead the country's bid for its fourth consecutive gold medal at the Asian Games this fall, joined by a hot-shot high school prospect.
The Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), the national governing body of professional baseball, on Friday announced the 24-man roster for the upcoming Asian Games in Hangzhou, China.
Lee, the 2022 MVP in the KBO and the two-time defending batting champion for the Kiwoom Heroes, will be one of three outfielders for manager Ryu Joong-il.
Also making the team as the lone amateur was Masan Yongma High School pitcher Jang Hyun-seok, considered the likely No. 1 pick in this year's KBO draft.
Jang, 19, is naturally the youngest player on the team, though only by about four months. Heroes rookie catcher Kim Dong-heon, who turns 20 in July, was named as one of two backstops. Kim Hyung-jun of the NC Dinos is the other catcher.
The Asian Games run from Sept. 23 to Oct. 8, having been postponed by a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In a break from past Asian Games, the KBO's regular season will not go on a hiatus during the Hangzhou tournament.
South Korea has won every baseball gold medal since 2010. In light of a controversial gold medal in 2018, when the national team featured players whom the coaching staff ostensibly selected to help them earn military exemption, the KBO decided to put a self-imposed age limit for the 2023 competition.
Of the 24 players, 21 were born in 1998 or later, or have four years or less of professional experience. The remaining three players were selected regardless of their age or experience.
The three overage players are: Lotte Giants pitcher Park Se-woong, 27; Dinos pitcher Koo Chang-mo, 26; and Kia Tigers outfielder Choi Won-jun, 26, who is currently fulfilling his military service with the Army club Sangmu.
Each of the 10 KBO clubs will send at least one player, with the Heroes, the Dinos and the LG Twins represented by a maximum three each.
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