“As long as it’s clear, I’d be okay with it (robot referees). Consistency would be great.”
NC Dinos veteran outfielder Park Gun-woo welcomed the introduction of the Automatic Ball-Strike System (ABS) in the KBO this season.
Park Gun-woo met with reporters at Incheon International Airport before departing for Tucson, Arizona, where the NC N Team (NC 1st team) is holding CAMP 2 (spring training) on the 30th and shared his thoughts on the ABS system.
ABS, also known as robotic umpires, use a pitch tracking program to call balls and strikes. The umpire calls them out in real time through an earpiece. The KBO will be the first to implement ABS, which has not yet been introduced in Major League Baseball (MLB) and Nippon Professional Baseball, two of the world’s top leagues.
“I think umpires are human and can make mistakes. However, I wish all umpires would do the same if they called a ball that was outside the zone for a strike. It’s so confusing with all the different strike zones,” he said.
“If the ABS strikes a ball that is one-bound on the ground, you just have to deal with it as a player. As long as it’s clear, I think I’ll be fine,” he said, adding, “I think it would be great if it was consistent.”
Park is an outfielder who has been playing for the NC since the 2022 season after being drafted by the Doosan Bears in the second round in 2009. In 1167 career games until last year, he batted .326 (3996-for-1303) with 110 home runs, 624 RBI, 92 doubles, and an OPS of 0.878.
In particular, he had a breakout season in 2023. In 130 games, he batted .319 (146-for-458) with 12 home runs and 85 RBIs, winning the Golden Glove for outfielders. Last year was Park’s first time wearing a gold glove.
“I was so happy (to win the Golden Glove). Of course, I’d love to win another one, but I’ve accomplished what I’ve been aiming for my whole life. “The first time is the hardest,” he said, adding, “I think if I do well, it will follow. If I do well, I think I can get it again,” he said with a bright smile.
He continued, “The Golden Glove was the first thing I wanted to do. (Son) Asub is a batting champion like his brother, and it’s cool and I envy him, but it’s not something I want to do. I’ve done the No. 2 batting title, but (the No. 1 title) suddenly got injured (on the way) and couldn’t do it. “Honestly, I don’t have many goals (for the rest of my career). I just want to do well and end my baseball career on a high note, and I think that’s the right way to prepare. I hope I can maintain my performance well and remain a player who can play quietly for a long time.”
Although Park is now a senior member of the team, he would like to continue playing outfield defense rather than being a designated hitter. “I like to play defense. If the person who defends every day doesn’t play, and I go out as a designated hitter, I feel like a substitute. “I think (Son) Asub will play a lot of designated hitter this year. I’ll do my best to play defense,” he said.
Last year, the NC outperformed expectations. They were picked to finish last before the start of the season, but finished fourth with 75 wins, two draws, and 67 losses, punching their ticket to the postseason.
As the fall winds blew, NC became even stronger. They didn’t lose a game from the wild-card game to the second round of the playoffs, winning six straight fall baseball games in 2023 and nine straight postseason games, including Game 4 of the 2020 Korean Series. This tied the record for the longest winning streak in fall baseball, which was set by the Hattae Tigers over two seasons in 1987-1988. While the Tigers fell short of advancing to the Korean Series, it was an accomplishment that deserves a lot of applause.
Looking back on the season, Park said, “Not everyone is satisfied, including me, but I think we did really well. I think we can do it this year if we prepare well to go to the next level.” “We lost some good players, but I believe the other players will make up for it. I can’t do it alone. We’ll try to prepare well together,” he said with a twinkle in his eye.