Deakin helps bring Korean baseball stars to Australian Baseball League

On a recent Friday afternoon, a team of Korean professional baseball players were busy training in a somewhat unlikely place – Deakin University’s campus in suburban Geelong. The practice was simple, agility work alongside throwing and catching practice. The team is Geelong-Korea, and this is one of their sessions before their final game in the 2018–19 Australian Baseball League (ABL) season.

It is the off-season for the KBO League, the highest level of pro baseball in South Korea, and most other major baseball leagues around the world. So the ABL offers great opportunity as a proving ground for up-and-coming players. Not that the team is without its share of notable names – veteran pitcher Jin-Woo Kim has played 247 KBO games for the Kia Tigers over 13 seasons, and 21-year-old Kwang-Min Kwon plays in the Chicago Cubs farm system in the United States.

Pitcher Jin-Woo Kim at work during a Geelong-Korea training session

Pitcher Jin-Woo Kim at work during a Geelong-Korea training session.

The creation of the Geelong-Korea team is an acknowledgement of the popularity of baseball in Korea, and the involvement of these notable players is helping to bring international attention to Australia’s own growing league. Adding further star-power is South Korean all-star and former Olympian Dae-Sung Koo, who is serving as the team’s manager.

Deakin University is a global leader in sports science and sports business, as well as a major champion of Geelong, which is home to two Deakin campuses. So the University was excited to begin a new partnership with Baseball Australia, becoming the Official University Partner of the ABL and the Exclusive University Partner of Geelong-Korea – a brand-new team in the ABL this season.

Pitcher Jin-Woo Kim at work during a Geelong-Korea training session.

The Geelong-Korea players have enjoyed living and training at Deakin’s Geelong Waurn Ponds Campus during their time in Australia

As part of this partnership, Deakin is proud to have hosted and supported the Geelong-Korea team during their inaugural season. The team trained in the Elite Sports Precinct at Deakin’s Geelong Waurn Ponds Campus’ and stayed in on-campus accommodation.

And there is good reason for any sports organisation or athlete to want to engage with Deakin. Our sport business programs are ranked in the global top 10 by Sports Business International. And our School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences is currently ranked #1 in Australia and #3 in the world by the prestigious ShanghaiRankings. It’s one of the best places in the world to explore both the business and physical fitness sides of sport at all levels, from amateur to the big leagues.

Players Sang-hak Lee and Han-gyeol Joh say playing against Australian teams has been a great experience, and that everyone they have met has been very kind.

Players Sang-hak Lee and Han-gyeol Joh say playing against Australian teams has been a great experience, and that everyone they have met has been very kind.

Relief pitcher Sang-hak Lee, who plays in Japan outside of the ABL season, has enjoyed his time playing and training at the Deakin Waurn Ponds Campus.

“Geelong has a perfect environment for sports and exercise, especially for baseball. I was surprised by the facilities you have here – the grounds, the fitness centres. It is not easy to find such facilities in Korea, so I think there is a lot to learn from Australia,” said Lee.

Outfielder Han-gyeol Joh, who plays professionally in Korea, said he had learned a lot from playing alongside his more experienced teammates and against the Australian teams.

“The experienced players, they lift the young players quite well – that’s how the young players can get used to each other and make it as a team. Australian baseball is a lot higher [quality] than I expected when I was in Korea. I find every player has high skills, I can feel myself improving having games with them,” said Joh.

Geelong-Korea manager Dae Sung Koo gives advice to one of his players

Geelong-Korea manager Dae Sung Koo gives advice to one of his players.

Deakin University Vice-Chancellor Professor Jane den Hollander AO said this unique partnership is a way to show Deakin’s expertise and to show that our doors are wide open to students from South Korea.

“Deakin University is pleased to be supporting Baseball Australia and Geelong-Korea Baseball,” Professor den Hollander said. “We wish the team every success, and we look forward to the relationship creating new opportunities for South Korean students to study at Deakin.”

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