Trained player Name change Elbow surgery A thrilling comeback after 2 years… The original swingman returned, “I really wanted to play baseball” [Oh!Ssen Interview]

 Park So-jun (28), the original swingman of the Doosan Bears, finally returned to the first-team stage after a long tunnel of rehabilitation. When we met him at the scene, he said, “I wanted to play baseball so much,” and expressed his excitement about returning to the first team.

Park So-jun was registered as a first-team entry along with left-handed rookie pitcher Baek Seung-woo ahead of the 12th game of the season against SSG Landers, which was scheduled to be held at Jamsil Stadium in Seoul on the 13th. Park Chi-guk, who suffered a shoulder injury, and Kim Jeong-woo, who was underperforming, were eliminated to create a spot, and thanks to a good performance with an ERA of 0.90 in three Futures League games, he returned to the first team for the first time in about two years since October 2021. In Group 2, the highest fastball velocity reached 147km. 

Park So-jun, who we met at the scene, said, “I wanted to be in the first team this year, and I’m so happy that I was lucky enough to be there. I really wanted to play baseball.” Because I haven’t been able to do it in a while. Even when I pitched in the second team, I wasn’t nervous and it was a lot of fun. “It was so good to throw while thinking about all the times I couldn’t throw,” he said, happy like a child. 

Park So-jun, who graduated from Cheong High School and joined Doosan as a training player in 2013, made a thrilling first-team debut two years later, but lived in obscurity for a long time with an ERA of 11.57 in three games. It was in 2020 that he made his name known. At the time, he was inserted into the starting lineup where Chris Flexen and Lee Yong-chan were missing due to injuries, and performed his duties as a substitute starter excellently, and even earned his first win in his debut against LG on June 20 with 6 scoreless innings.

Park So-jun was unable to secure his place again in the highly anticipated 2021 season and ended up applying for a name change. Ahead of the 2022 season, the decision was made to change the name from Jonggi to Sojun. The naming office interpreted that Jong-gi’s character ‘Gi ‘ 메이저놀이터 did not suit an athlete, so in October 2021, he changed his name to So-jun which means ‘be versatile in many fields’.

There was no effect of the name change. Even though he received many opportunities as a starter and in the bullpen, he failed to live up to the faith with no wins in 22 games, 4 losses, and an ERA of 5.73. To make matters worse, he complained of elbow pain and went to the operating table twice, in late April and early May last year. After changing his name, he dreamed of a better career and took the entire year off.

Park So-jun said, “It was very difficult in the beginning of rehabilitation. “There was a time when he collapsed because he was greedy,” he said. “Athletes who had surgery said that it is good to work hard, but it gets better over time.” In fact, as time passed, it got better. Everyone gave me so much advice. In particular, Kwak Bin, who had surgery experience, talked a lot about the importance of recovery,” he said, expressing his gratitude. 

He said, “After finishing rehabilitation, my worries were greater than the pain. “I could tolerate the pain, but I was afraid that my throwing mechanism would change,” he said. “I heard that my arms would fall off because I kept trying not to use them. “I was afraid that would actually happen, so I raised my arms higher and practiced harder,” he said, adding about his difficulties. 

Park So-jun, who improved his practical sense in just three games in the Futures League, was given jersey number 38. This is Kwon Hwi’s number after enlisting in the military. Coach Lee Seung-yeop said, “It is difficult to use him from the beginning because he is a player who has not appeared in the first team for more than a year. He will pitch first when it is convenient for him. He expressed his expectations, saying, “He pitched in three games after surgery and his performance is good.”

Park So-jun said, “Now everything that hurts hurts. “He will continue to do well in the future,” he said. “He should have helped the team a lot when they were having a hard time, but it seems like there was a big empty spot.” “Even now, if our pitcher brothers and younger brothers are having a hard time, I will go out and do my best to help them wherever they are,” he said. 

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