This season, the KBO League is a rich year for new players graduating from high school. Starting with Kim Seo-hyun (Hanwha Eagles), Yoon Young-chul (KIA Tigers), and Kim Min-seok (Lotte Giants), there are not a few players who are showing their presence on the first team stage. Meanwhile, across the sea, in Japan, their classmates are also showing off their outstanding performance. This is Jang Hyun-jin, a left-handed hitter from Seoul High School.
Jang Hyun-jin participated in 22 games in his senior year of high school and recorded 29 hits and 22 RBIs with a batting average of 3.992. However, he was not drafted. The decision he made was to spend his career as a player in an independent league in Japan.
“I was debating 안전놀이터 whether to go to college or go to the military, but coach Han Seong-gu (former KIA Tigers catcher), who had experience in the Japanese independent league, said, ‘You are a bat that can work in Japan, so it’s not bad to try’, so I was put to the test. “
The league to which Jang Hyun-jin belongs is the Shikoku Island League Plus, an independent league with the longest history in Japan, which was launched in 2005. Four teams are participating, and Jang Hyun-jin plays for the Tokushima Indigo Sox. Tokushima is a team that Ha Jae-hoon (SSG Landers) and Lee Hak-joo (Lotte) also belonged to in the past. Jang Hyun-jin is the youngest in the team, but he is currently in charge of the 4th hitter, the center of the batting line.
Jang Hyun-jin started as the 7th hitter in the opening game on March 25 and recorded 4 hits and 1 RBI in 4 at-bats. After that, his batting order went up. Tokushima head coach Detsuji Okamoto said of Jang Hyun-jin, “He has a good contact ability and a good starting line. He is doing well without any pressure even if he is in charge of the center batting line.”
When hitting, Hyunjin Jang puts his hands in a low top position and makes a simple swing with a short takeback. Jang Hyun-jin’s strength is that he can always swing without losing his posture. A hitter like that might look like a single hitter, but it’s not a light hitting style. In a game on April 30, he hit a home run he hadn’t hit in high school and began to show off his long-running ability. His current record is a batting average of .255 in 18 games (11th in the league), 1 home run and 8 RBIs (tied for 4th place). He has top records in a pitcher-dominated league.
Jang Hyun-jin has been in Japan for about two months. There is no interpreter for him, and communication with the manager and coaches is not smooth. However, coach Okamoto is watching Jang Hyun-jin closely. “(Chang) Hyunjin is serious and practices hard. He is smart and a member of the team who can be recognized as a person.”
Jang Hyun-jin’s goal is to be evaluated in a tryout for overseas amateur and professional players held in August in order to be nominated in the 2024 KBO Rookie Draft.
“I look up the Hanwha game videos every day to see if my best friend (Kim) Seohyun, my best friend from high school, appears. Seeing how Seohyun is doing well makes me happy too. Looking at Seohyun and the players I played with in high school, I also really want to play in the KBO League. It lifts you up and gives you confidence.”
Jang Hyun-jin, who is a third baseman and outfielder, but is currently in charge of the designated hitter due to team circumstances. A young man who says, “I am confident in hitting the ball (speed) even if it is 160 km.” He is growing up in the Japanese independent league to catch up with his classmates. <