Hanwha players look forward to ‘Hanwha’s’ Ryu Hyun-jin

Ryu Hyun-jin’s Hanwha Eagles comeback has taken off. Hanwha fans aren’t the only ones waiting for Ryu to return.

Ryu is eligible for free agency for the second time in his Major League Baseball career after the 2023 season. After his four-year, $80 million contract with the Toronto Blue Jays expired after the 2020 season, Ryu was expected to continue his career in the big leagues.

Throughout the winter, Ryu was mentioned by numerous big league organizations in need of starting pitching, but as of the start of Major League Baseball spring training, he still hadn’t found a home. Several teams have reportedly made offers to Ryu, but there has been no word of a finalized agreement.

This has raised hopes for Ryu’s return to the Korean League. Ryu went overseas through the posting system rather than free agency. According to KBO rules, if he were to return to Korea, he would return to his hometown team, the Hanwha Eagles. Ryu compiled a KBO record of 98 wins, 52 losses, one save, a 2.80 ERA and 1238 strikeouts in 190 games and 1269 innings over seven seasons from his debut in 2006 through 2012.

When asked about Hyun-jin’s return, Hanwha general manager Son Hyuk told Xports News on Nov. 19, “I’ve been talking to Hyun-jin for a long time, and we’ve recently formed a good understanding. If Hyun-jin comes back, of course, we are thinking about the highest amount, and we have made an offer and are waiting,” he said, indicating that Ryu’s return to Korea is getting closer.

Hanwha fans aren’t the only ones looking forward to Ryu’s return. Hanwha players also envision themselves playing with Ryu one day.

“Hyun-jin isn’t the type to show his true colors, which is why he’s so good at baseball,” said Lee Tae-yang, who had a personal training session with Ryu in Okinawa, Japan, in January, along with Jang Min-jae, Lee Min-woo, Kim Ki-jung, and Nam Ji-min. “I teased him a lot (to come to Hanwha), but I’m still rooting for whatever choice he makes. I think it will be a good choice.”

Kim Ki-joong, who was contacted by Jang Min-jae to join the ‘Ryu Hyun-jin Camp’, laughed that he “ran around the house” and said, “The first professional baseball player I got an autograph from when I was a kid was Ryu Hyun-jin. I don’t remember exactly, but it was when Hyun-jin was at the peak of his career, and the line for his autograph was very long, and I remember being the last one in line. I was lucky,” he recalled.

When asked how he would feel if Ryu Hyun-jin returned to Hanwha and played with him, Kim said, “I think it would be more of an honor. I would have more time to learn from him. I think I’ll ask him a lot more questions if he comes back,” he said.

The ‘transfer student’ catcher Lee Jae-won and Ryu Hyun-jin are from the same Incheon city and are the same age, born in 1987. Although they never attended the same school, they played together on the youth national team in 2005. Lee was drafted by his hometown team, the SK Wyverns, in the first round in 2006, while Ryu was selected by Hanwha with the second overall pick in the first round of the second draft.

“It’s a huge plus for Hyun-jin to come to our team, so I think it will be great once he comes. We’re waiting for him. Obviously, it’s going to help the 토토 catcher, but it’s also going to be a big, big boost for the eight guys behind him. It’s definitely going to be synergistic.”

Ryu’s return to Hanwha will have more than just a player impact. The younger players will be able to watch, emulate, and learn from the “legendary pitcher” who has played in the KBO and the major leagues, and absorb his experience and know-how. The growth of the individual is the growth of the team.

“Hyun-jin didn’t even look at me and Taeyeon after we finished playing catch, but when Ki-jung and Jimin played catch, he would go over and show them and teach them,” Jang said, laughing. “I think that helped Ki-jung and Jimin a lot. It must have been a great experience for him and Jimin.”

Hanwha has been in talks with Ryu’s camp since last winter as he weighed his options between the U.S. and Korea. Recently, manager Son Hyuk returned to Korea ahead of schedule after observing spring training in Australia. At this point, it is believed that they have been in talks with Ryu’s camp about a specific amount of money.

Amid rumors that ‘monster’ Ryu could join the team, Hanwha, which won both of its two exhibition games against the Australian national team in Melbourne, Australia, and ended the first spring camp on a high note, will travel to Okinawa, Japan, for the second camp. In Okinawa, Ryu Hyun-jin “of Hanwha” may join the team instead of Ryu Hyun-jin “of Hanwha.


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