‘Climbing with sandbags’… Team Leadoff’s performance wasn’t just made up

Batting average of 0.455 (11-for-5), OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) of 0.955.

Women’s National Team leadoff hitter and outfielder Ahn Soo-ji, 34, is doing just that. In the third game of their group stage at the 2023 Baseball World Cup in Hong Kong, the Korean Women’s National Team used Ahn’s excellent on-base percentage and quick feet to defeat ‘nemesis’ Philippines 9-5 to advance to the Super Round and earn a spot in the World Baseball Classic.

On this day, Ahn Soo-ji did not hold back. She took on the important role of ‘leadoff’ and actively tried to get on base, and when she did, she ran around and shook her opponents. The highlight of the day was her home slide in the fifth inning.안전놀이터

In the fifth inning, Ahn Soo-ji, who had reached first base with no outs, sprinted home on Park Joo-ah’s single up the middle.

But the Filipino outfielder’s shoulders were stronger than she thought. As the ball came flying towards home, An wasted no time in sliding. In the process, she collided heavily with the opposing catcher, resulting in an unfortunate out. However, the team’s fighting spirit was enhanced by An’s determination.

After the game, Ahn said, “It hurt after colliding with the catcher. But it didn’t matter because my team was able to beat the Philippines and qualify for the World Championships,” she smiled.

An’s quick feet are the result of a special drill she has been practising in secret. She used to run to the top of the mountain with a ‘sandbag’.

“There’s Mount Achasan in front of my house. I’ve always loved climbing mountains, so I started a few years ago,” she said. He started wearing sandbags because he wanted to speed up his running. Twice a week, he would run up Mount Achasan.

Ahn Soo-ji is now a fourth-year outfielder with the national team. She first wore the Korean flag in 2020 when she was 31 years old. Women’s baseball players can be selected for the national team from the age of 16, but An Su-ji made the team at a slightly later age.

This is because she started playing baseball in her 20s. Despite her late introduction to the sport and a broken nose from a ball in the nose, her passion for the game never waned, and as the saying goes, “steady wins the race,” and she was able to make the national team in her 30s.

“I wanted to get better at baseball because I have a strong competitive spirit, and in order to get better at baseball, I went to lessons in addition to training in social clubs, so I wanted to try out for the national team where I could get systematic training,” she says.

She’s also a master of self-care. “When I come to Hong Kong, I don’t play during breaks, I do yoga at my hostel,” he says. “When my muscles get tight, I get injured. I have to compete, so I do yoga to keep my body flexible. It’s my routine,” he said.

National team coach Yang Sang-moon said of Ahn Soo-ji, “She is good at picking up theoretical things. Also, her body is flexible, so her ability to hit is good.”

With her flexibility from yoga and her quick feet from training in sandbags, An is now aiming for a medal. “I want to bat more as a lead-off batsman. I have faith in the batsmen behind me. I will work harder up front so that they can score runs,” she said.

Meanwhile, the women’s national team will take on Hong Kong in the first game of the Super Round on 30 June at 4pm (KST).

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