When asked who the player who showed the most growth in this year’s LG Twins spring camp, coach Yeom Gyeong-yeop and general manager Cha Myung-seok shared the name of right-hander Kang Hyo-jong (21), who joined as the first draft pick in 2021.
Kang Hyo-jong, 안전놀이터who graduated from Chungam High School, was a promising right-hander with an attractive fastball of 148 km per hour. In addition to that, he emerged as the best prospect in the Seoul area with his slider, curveball, and changeup, but his shoulder injury, pitching form, and the resulting difficulty in pitching were pointed out as weaknesses. Even until the first half of last year, the weakness seemed to stand out. However, after meeting Kim Kyung-tae (48), pitching coach of LG Future Steam, and correcting the pitching mechanism, both the ball and shoulder pain began to improve.
After live pitching at the Giants Complex in Scottsdale, Arizona, USA on the 24th (Korean time), Kang Hyo-jong said, “After fixing the pitching mechanism, the pain has also decreased. After changing it a little closer to my head, the burden on my arms was relieved. From then on, I gained the confidence that I won’t get injured.”
The achievements are continuing in this spring camp following last year’s first team debut and education league. Kang Hyo-jong started against the Changwon NC Dinos on October 7, 2022 and became the winning pitcher in his debut match with 5 innings and 2 runs. He said, “I was always envious while watching it on TV. Our fans cheered loudly and cheered passionately, so I always wanted to throw in a place like that, but the coach gave me a chance. It was fun,” he recalled.
On this day as well, Kang Hyo-jong started his first live pitching against Huh Do-hwan, Shin Min-jae, Moon Bo-kyung, Moon Seong-joo, and Lee Jae-won in the presence of coach Yeom Gyeong-yeop and coaches. He threw a total of 30 balls with a mix of fastballs, changeups, sliders and curveballs, with a maximum speed of 147 km per hour and an average of 145 km.
Praise continued for the sharp ball. Pitching coach Kyung Hun-ho announced that he still has more to show, saying, “It’s a bit less than bullpen pitching.” Heo Do-hwan praised, “It’s much more stable than last year. I think it will get better, so let’s do our best.” According to Kang Hyo-jong, the highest speed so far is 150 km/h.
The mentally shaken attack continued. The player himself vehemently denied, saying, “I’ve heard of it, but not at all,” but he has a decent appearance to the point of being praised for resembling a famous idol-turned-actor. When he threw it, shouts of “Handsome Hyojong!” continued, and in the case of Lee Jae-won, he teased, “If I had dealt with him one more time, I would have passed your ball.”
However, he is in the position that the player himself wants to prove his competitiveness on the first team stage with his skills rather than receiving attention for his appearance. Prior to the spring camp, personal training with the national team members was also a great motivation.
Kang Hyo-jong said, “(Jeong) Woo-young gave all the support and asked me to go first. It was an honor to be with the national team members (Oh Ji-hwan, Jung Woo-young, Kim Yun-sik). And while watching the older brothers training, the national team also worked so hard. But I have the motivation to do more,” he said.
“I can show what I have without getting sick, so my biggest goal is to play full-time without injury. I came in as the team’s first nomination, but I still haven’t lived up to the fans’ expectations. If I work hard, I’ll definitely try to enter the starting rotation I want to,” he said, expressing his strong aspirations.