Successful genealogy of the Hanwha Independent League, Lee Jung-jae’s turn this year as ‘Uta Geopo’
Hanwha is the most active team in scouting independent league players. It has had a pretty big effect at a small cost, and continues to recruit independent league players.
Pitchers Yun Dae-gyeong and Yoon San-heum are typical success stories. After being released from Samsung, Yoon Dae-kyung, who came to Hanwha in July 2019 via Niigata Albirex in Japan, has established himself as a first-team pitcher since 2020. Yoon San-heum, who played for Scorebone Hyenas after being released from Doosan, also joined Hanwha in June 2021 and rose to the first team bullpen last year.
After being released from LG, left-handed pitcher Song Yoon-jun, who went to Hanwha in October 2019 after playing for Paju Challengers, also experienced the first team and rose to the top of the Futures League Northern League (15 wins) last year. Left-handed pitcher Oh Se-hoon and infielder Han Kyung-bin, who were recruited from Goyang Winners and Paju Challengers respectively at the end of May last year, are also preparing to debut in the first team this year, quickly establishing themselves as key players in the Futures team.
A new player from the independent league joined this year as well. Outfielder Lee Jung-jae (24), who joined Seosan Futures from the finishing camp after the season last year, is the main character. Lee Jung-jae, who graduated from Dongsan High 스포츠토토School and finished his military service as a social worker after failing to be nominated as a pro, continued his challenge in the independent league Gapyeong Wales from July 2021.
In particular, in 37 games last year, he was active with a batting average of 4.6, 7 runs, 8 home runs, and 52 RBIs, and became the league MVP. Standing at 178cm and weighing 98kg, he is a right-handed outfielder with a solid build and is good at producing long hits due to his fast bat speed. The Hanhwa, which lacks a giant cannon type outfielder, brought Lee Jung-jae after a test.
He joined Futures Spring Camp in Kochi, Japan. Manager Choi Won-ho said, “When Jang Ji-seung (who joined two years ago as a training player) first came, he was evaluated as having good batting talent, but coaches say that Lee Jung-jae is better than that.” It is a case that went out to the outfield. He plays the outfield, but also practices defending first base. He commented, “The first base defense is better than I thought.”
His ability to quickly adapt to the ball, which is not often seen in independent leagues, is the key to whether or not he enters the first team in the future. The process may not be easy, but Lee Jung-jae’s work ethic is highly evaluated. Since his days in the independent league, he has been praised for his diligent training stance and uncompromising play. Attention is focusing on whether Lee Jung-jae’s dream of meeting Park Byeong-ho (KT), the ‘national hero’ whom he has idolized since childhood, in person in the first team will come true.
Choi Won-ho, coach of the Hanwha Futures, said, “The scout team selected potential players well. Above all, players from independent leagues are more desperate than others. After the Futures team’s keynote changed to a competitive system, opportunities to travel increased, so I wonder if players from independent leagues are getting their seats a little faster.”