Stars of Asiad

(Asiad) Sophomore slugger makes immediate impact on nat'l baseball team

2014/09/19 08:02

SEOUL, Sept. 19 (Yonhap) -- In his international debut on Thursday, young South Korean baseball slugger Na Sung-bum made an immediate impact, offering a glimpse into what could be a memorable Asian Games on home soil.

The 24-year-old outfielder for the NC Dinos in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) launched a go-ahead grand slam for the national team in its 10-3 victory over the LG Twins of the KBO in a practice game in Seoul. As South Korea gets ready to defend its Asiad gold medal in Incheon, west of the capital, this was the one last warm-up game for the national team.

Na, a second-year professional, made the national team for the first time. After finishing third in the Rookie of the Year balloting last season with 14 homers, 64 RBIs and a .243 average, Na has blossomed into a legitimate star this season. He already has 29 home runs and 98 RBIs, and is batting a robust .330. He has also stolen 14 bases, two more than last year.

Before the game against the Twins, national team manager Ryu Joong-il said Na was a candidate to bat third in the order in the Asian Games. Ryu then placed Na in the third spot against the Twins to test the young slugger's mettle, and Na rose to the occasion.

South Korean outfielder Na Sung-bum rounds the bases after hitting a grand slam in a practice match in Seoul on Sept. 18, 2014. (Yonhap) South Korean outfielder Na Sung-bum rounds the bases after hitting a grand slam in a practice match in Seoul on Sept. 18, 2014. (Yonhap)

With South Korea down 3-0 in the bottom of the third, Na stepped up to the plate with no out and bases loaded. He promptly blasted a grand slam that proved to be the difference in the game.

Ironically, he has yet to hit a grand slam in the KBO this year.

"I didn't get a hit in my first at-bat, and I thought to myself this wasn't going to be my day," Na said. "Then I hit that homer in my second at-bat. And things went pretty well after that."

   Na also hit a double to right in the bottom of the eighth. For Thursday, he was 2-for-5 with four RBIs and two runs scored.

Na, who usually bats third for the Dinos, said he isn't trying to change too much just because he's on the national team.

"This is a familiar place for me in the lineup," he said. "So I was just trying to do what I usually do on my club."

   South Korea will open Group B play against Thailand on Monday and then face Taiwan on Wednesday and Hong Kong the next day

jeeho@yna.co.kr

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