“I felt the difficulties of unpopular sports again.”
After graduating from Korea University and playing for Korea Cosmetics, the Lotte Giants, and the Pacific Dolphins, Yang was always a “lefty ace. With 10 complete games and 10 shutouts in his 41-game professional baseball career, he was also a sought-after coach after retirement.
In December 2022, he was appointed as the head coach of the national women’s baseball team, an unpopular sport with no professional teams. It was a big decision for Yang Sang-moon, a star player and star coach, who was busy serving as a technical committee member of the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) and a commentator for SPOTV, but he readily accepted the position because he wanted to develop an unpopular sport.
The reality of women’s baseball was more difficult than she expected. Despite being the national team, the main sponsor was not secured until two months before the tournament, and the team could not afford to fly on the national flag, so they flew to the final on a Hong Kong budget airline. The team is still looking for funds to travel to the World Baseball Classic in Canada in early August.
When I asked Yang Sang-moon about his impressions of the 2023 Asian Cup (BFA), which was held in Hong Kong from the end of last month to the 2nd, he said, “I felt the difficulties of unpopular sports. I think a good system for marginalized sports should be established as soon as possible,” he said.
“At the end of the day, there should be well-equipped infrastructure facilities such as stadiums where athletes can exercise with peace of mind,” Yang said. Korea has the image of being a ‘sports powerhouse,’ but there are many things that don’t fit that image in unpopular sports. This needs to be improved in the future.”
In Yang’s view, women’s baseball players have a different attitude than their professional counterparts. “It’s different from the ‘hungry spirit’. To be more precise, I felt a ‘longing’ for ‘systematic guidance.'” It was this longing in the female players’ eyes that led Yang to the national team head coaching position.
In fact, the players’ eyes lit up as Yang gave them systematic guidance based on his extensive professional baseball experience. “I joined the national team because I wanted to learn from him,” said one of the players.
Outside of little league, girls don’t have an elite team to play for, so they don’t have the same access to structured instruction. The passion for baseball is the same for both men and women, but there was no place for women to learn, so when Yang joined the national team with a coaching staff that included professional baseball stars, the players were thrilled.
Yang hopes that other former professional baseball managers and players will contribute to the development of women’s baseball. “When I tried it myself, I realized that it is not an easy task, but I hope that talented people will come and help us,” she said.
Some of the players on the Korean national team hope to improve their skills and play in Japan, where there is an unemployed league, in a few years. Kim Ra-kyung, a “women’s baseball icon” who missed out on the national team due to injury, joined the Asahi Trust, a Japanese unemployment team, last year. “I hope that at least city and provincial teams will be established so that women’s baseball can become an official sport at the national championships and that there will be unemployment teams for female players who want to play baseball as a profession,” Yang said.
Yang also pointed out that in order to improve, players need to have their own systematic training methods, which the Korean national team players do not yet have. “I heard that (national team outfielder Yang) Seo-jin had never done strength training, and (national team pitcher Park) Min-sung showed me a video of (Japanese living legend) Ayami Sato warming up and explained, ‘You should have your own routine like that. The players didn’t know what to do because they had never been taught a systematic method.”
Despite the barrenness of the sport, women’s baseball is only going to get better. Women’s baseball is being considered for inclusion in the 2026 Asian Games (AG) in Aichi and Nagoya, Japan. As the host country, Japan, is the strongest in women’s baseball, there is a good chance it will be included.
“When I went to the Asian Cup representative meeting, they told me that it was confirmed as a demonstration sport for the AG in three years,” Yang smiles. If it is adopted as an official sport at a major international event like the AG, support will naturally increase. There is also a strong possibility that city and provincial unemployment teams will be formed.안전놀이터
Yang is currently in the midst of preparations for the upcoming World Baseball Classic (WBSC) in Canada on August 8. South Korea is in Group A with Canada, the United States, Mexico, Australia, and Hong Kong. The Korean women’s baseball team is preparing for another transformation to face the more athletic and powerful nations. They’re looking to increase the level of competition and build a team with their best players to overcome the weight of the flag.