SSG removed starting catcher Min-sik Kim from the first-team roster after a 4-15 loss to Sasik Lotte on April 17. SSG coach Kim Won-hyung said at the time, “(Kim) needs to cool his head,” he said. The team decided that it was more important for Kim to recover than the upcoming game. One of the reasons for this decision was the young catcher Cho Hyung-woo (21), who gave Kim “faith” this season.
Cho is a third-year professional catching prospect who was selected by SK (now SSG) in the second round (8th overall) of the 2021 KBO League Rookie Draft. After making his first-team debut last year and appearing in nine games, he has been gaining first-team experience this season as the backup catcher to Kim Min-sik. Cho has established himself as the team’s second catcher as veteran catcher Lee Jae-won has spent more time in the second team due to poor hitting.
Kim considers Cho’s biggest strength to be his strong shoulders. He particularly likes his ability to throw out opponents’ stealing attempts at a high rate. In fact, he has a stolen base rate of nearly three percent (.296) in 48 games this season. His defense and ball placement skills, including blocking and framing, have also improved over the course of the season.
As he continues to develop his skills as a first-team catcher, his fellow pitchers are putting their trust in him. Left-handed ace Kirk McCarty feels most comfortable on the mound paired with Cho Hyung-woo. Veteran left-hander Kim Kwang-hyun is also said to be comfortable with having to work with Cho in Min-sik’s absence.
“The fact that the younger player continues to wear the starting mask in the absence of Min-sik is a sign of stability,” Kim said.
When we recently met at the Incheon SSG Landers Field, Cho Hyung-woo was trying to erase the word ‘anxiety’ from his vocabulary. “When others saw me, I thought, ‘I must be anxious,’ so even I didn’t believe in myself and felt anxious,” he said. “My coach and others told me that my skills have improved a lot, so now I feel stable and confident.”
His goal is to become an “all-around” catcher who can play defense and offense. However, he hasn’t been able to do much at the plate this season. His batting average this season is .172.
“It’s a very disappointing record for me, so I feel more chased and urgent,” Cho said. “I know I need to improve my hitting ability, but I’m determined to focus on the role I can play first.” Kim encouraged Cho’s batting, saying, “You will show your batting talent when you go out to play.”안전놀이터
Cho is determined to use his current playing time as a springboard for growth. “I want to play as many games as possible without getting injured, gain experience, and become a player who improves every year,” he said.