Ha Jae-hoon, who is solidifying his position, will be the SSG’s attacker to regain the lead?
Can Ha Jae-hoon, 33, who has overcome a difficult baseball career on his own, lead his team, the SSG Landers, to victory in a tight race for first place?
A native of Yangdeokcho, Masan Dongjoong, and Yongmago, Ha has had a dramatic career. He knocked on the door of the United States as an international amateur free agent in 2009, and after playing in Nippon Professional Baseball and the Japanese Independent League, he broke into the Korean scene in 2019 with the SK Wyverns (now SSG).
He didn’t settle on a single position. He played catcher, outfielder, and pitcher in the U.S. and bounced back and forth between pitching and hitting in Japan. In 2019, his first year in the KBO, he settled into the closer’s role, posting a 5-3 record, 36 saves, and a 1.98 ERA in 61 games (59 innings).
However, Ha “Pitcher” Jae-hoon’s career has not been smooth sailing. He was hampered by a shoulder injury and finished the 2020 season with a 1-1 record, four saves, and a 7.62 ERA. After failing to rebound in 2021 with a 1-0 record and a 4.00 ERA, he switched to batting.
Ha picked up a bat again after a long absence. But it wasn’t all smooth sailing at the plate. In 60 games in 2022, he struggled, batting .215 (23-for-107) with six home runs and 13 RBIs. Desperate, he signed with Geelong Korea in Australia after the season to improve his game.
It was a slow start, but this year was still going to be tough for Ha. During the second spring training camp in Okinawa, he fractured his shoulder blade while making a diving catch during a practice game. After recovering, he returned to the first team on May 25 against the Incheon LG Twins and showed good hitting form, but on June 11 against the Changwon NC Dinos, he fractured his finger while stealing a base.
Nevertheless, Ha didn’t give up. He improved his physical condition through treatment and rehabilitation and was named to the first team roster on June 21 against the LG Twins in Jamsil. Batting sixth and batting left field in the starting lineup, Ha went 2-for-3 with a double, a walk, two runs scored, and two stolen bases in SSG’s 6-4 victory. After the game, SSG head coach Kim Won-hyung said, “Jae-hoon’s multi-hit game and baserunning were a big boost.”
The secret to Ha’s success in his comeback game is that he has established his own batting philosophy. When we met before the game against LG Electronics in Jamsil on the 22nd (rained out), Kim said, “Ha Jae-hoon went to Geelong Korea last year and found his own hitting. It was good until he got injured in Okinawa, and it was good in camp. It was good until he got injured and came back (on May 25) and injured his finger,” Kim said, explaining, “To some extent, I think he has developed a sense of what he should do at the plate.”
Another reason for his success is that he has gained a lot of experience and has become more relaxed at the plate.
Kim Won-hyung said, “(Ha Jae-hoon) has improved his timing when facing the pitcher technically, not the timing of ball to ball, but the timing of when he can see the ball at the plate. I think that’s why I’m hitting so well,” he said. “I’ve also seen a lot of improvement in how I handle two-strikes. Last year, I struck out a lot after two strikes, but now I make a lot of contact. I’ve got power, so I’m getting what they call balls in play after two strikes. It’s because I’m timing my pitches well that I’m getting those results.”
Ha Jae-hoon’s performance has made his team SSG smile. In particular, SSG has been in a deep slump this season (batting average of 0.185 with two home runs and 25 days left in the season) without its key outfield resource Han Yoo-seom, who made his professional debut in 2012 and has 168 career home runs until this year. If Ha Jae-hoon can step up to the plate, SSG will have a more cohesive batting lineup.
Such an offensive boost could also give SSG wings in the tight race for the top spot. With 47 wins, one draw, and 32 losses, second-place SSG is currently trailing first-place LG (49 wins, two draws, and 31 losses) by 1.5 games. It’s certainly not an easy gap to close, given LG’s recent form, but if SSG’s batting lineup, their strength, comes alive, they could close the gap or even pull off the upset this week.카지노
After many twists and turns, Ha Jae-hoon is gradually cementing his position. Can he continue to show off his highly sensitive bat in the remaining games and help SSG regain the lead? Baseball fans will be watching closely.