“It was a very difficult ball. For a pitcher to make a sliding (diving) catch like that…”

When an infield fly is hit high over the mound, the pitcher is usually out of the way. The infielders catch the fall and catch the ball.

Pitchers naturally have much less training in defense than infielders. There”s a risk of injury as well as errors. Pitchers who aren”t used to dealing with fly balls don”t want to have to deal with them on a mound with bumps in the ground.

From nagging aches and pains to microscopic abnormalities in nails and fingers, there are many more things that can derail a pitcher’s performance than there are in the wild. That’s why pitchers are called “sensitive animals”.

That’s why a diving catch by a pitcher is a rare sight, especially if it’s an infield hit rather than one that passes near the mound.

Kwak Bin Kwak of the Doosan Bears did just that. He was eager to make up for his second-half slump.

On the 20th, Doosan and the NC Dinos played at Jamsil Stadium. In the top of the third inning, with the score 3-1, Kwak gave up a home run to leadoff hitter Ahn Jung-yeol. He then gave up a hit to Son Asub.

It was enough to make you dazed for a moment. Even for a national right-hander and homegrown ace, it’s not easy to keep your composure.

NC’s next batter, Park Min-woo, laid down a bunt. The ball floated slightly toward the first base line. It was a high, fast bunt that was difficult to catch.

Kwak Bin was different, sprinting full speed and throwing his whole body at the falling ball. There was no hesitation. The ball was sucked into his glove.

Even commentator Lee Dae-hyung, who made diving catches for a living during his playing days, was impressed. “It was a super save. I was surprised that the pitcher made such a dive.” He added, “There is fake (unnecessary) sliding and there is real. Kwak Bin’s play was real. He stretched his arm all the way out to get the ball,” he said.

In the first half of the season, Kwak went 8-2 with a 2.08 ERA in 65 innings pitched in 12 games. He allowed just one home run. Doosan manager Lee Seung-yeop praised him as “the next best thing to a fastball.” It looked like a homegrown ace who would dominate the league had been born.

However, in the second half of the season, he is 1-4 with a 4.97 ERA in five games. He’s only had two quality starts (6+ innings, 3 earned runs or less). He’s also allowed four home runs.

He was pulled in the bottom of the fourth inning after giving up four runs on seven hits (two home runs) in 3⅔ innings. The 5-12 loss was his sixth of the season. His frustration showed in his play.

Kwak Bin will be a key part of the Hangzhou Asian Games baseball team led by Liu Zhong-il. He was highly touted for the 2023 World Baseball Classic (WBC), but he failed to showcase his talents against Japan (1 run in ⅔ innings) and the Czech Republic (2 runs in 1⅓ innings). Can he show a different side at the Asian Games? 먹튀검증