The first half of the season was a reversal of fortune for Shin and the team. He made the leap from second base, where he was able to become a run producer again, to the main lineup in his ninth year. LG’s Shin Min-jae (27), who had less than a month to register for the first team last year, emerged as the Cinderella man this year.
Shin played in 66 games and 110 at-bats in the first half of the season, batting .344 with a .400 on-base percentage and 21 stolen bases. Many coaches have defined his role as a leadoff hitter, but Shin has taken advantage of every little opportunity that has come his way. He went from a pinch-hitter to a pinch-defender to a consistent second baseman in the lineup.
At the plate, he consistently creates chances and gets on base with a .375 batting average with runners in scoring position. He uses his quick legs to cover a wide defensive range, and he also showed a knack for catching runners in the leadoff spot against Jamsil KT on April 6. His stolen bases are also becoming more accurate as he gains experience. We caught up with Shin Min-jae on the 17th at Jamsil Stadium. Here’s what he had to say to the press.
-You had an unforgettable first half. How do you feel about finishing the first half so well?
I feel good because we did much better than I thought we would. The best part is that the team finished the first half in first place.
-Honestly, before the season, I don’t think I expected to play as much as I did.
I didn’t. I didn’t expect it at all. Of course, I was hoping for a lot of opportunities. Somehow, I ended up playing so often.
-Yeom Kyung-yup said that the team looked good from the final camp. Did you do anything differently before this season?
I don’t know if I did anything differently, but I trained a lot. I also trained a lot in the United States. Above all, I think the fact that I played regularly in the second team last year helped me to do what I did this year. I was an outfielder, not a second baseman, but I still started every day. If you can’t hit in the second team, you don’t have a chance in the first team, but I thought I could compete with the pitchers in the second team last year, and I gained confidence.
-In the first half of the season, I saw a lot of good things not only in my batting, but also in my defense as a second baseman. In the KT game, you made a quick catch to prevent Park Byung-ho from advancing to third base. What was the situation at the time?
When I caught the ball, I saw that Park Byung-ho didn’t run at once, but stopped and ran once. I probably wouldn’t have been able to challenge him if he went straight to third base. But I saw him pause, and I thought I could win at third base, so I challenged him.
-That one play must have given you a lot of confidence in your defense.
I think so. If I had just thrown to first, it would have been a two-out, three-run game. That would have tied the game with one hit. I think that play gave me a little bit of confidence in my defense.
-In your last interview, you said that you get a lot of help from your defense coach, Kim Il-kyung. Do you have any special drills?
I do a lot of drills with strong and fast balls. When I’m working on my defense, my coach hits balls near the mound. He throws me balls that are so strong that I can’t catch them, so I feel like I can relax a little more in practice.
-Yeom Kyung-yup After he took over, he emphasized the importance of a pinch-hitter and chose Shin Min-jae as the right one. I think it motivated me from then on.
I was motivated, but I still need to succeed to keep getting opportunities. I thought I had to take the opportunity when they asked me to do it, not just because it was nice.
-I know you’ve been traumatized by failed stolen bases in the past. How did you overcome it?
I wouldn’t call it overcoming, but my coach always told me that it doesn’t matter if I die, I have to keep playing. I’ve died, but I’ve also lived once or twice, and overall, I’ve gotten a lot more comfortable playing. I feel more comfortable stealing bases than before.
-I think I’ve gotten a better start when stealing bases.
That part is also there. But there is a difference between being a pinch-hitter and being a starter. Usually, starting pitchers don’t care about runners as much as middle pitchers. The slide step and the ability to hold on are often better in the middle of the order. I noticed this a lot in my starts.
-It was impressive to see that he was hitting regardless of the pitcher. Even pitchers with fastballs like Moon Dong-joo were able to get hits.
I think it’s also because I’m batting first and have the next at-bat. In my first at-bat against Moon, I thought it was difficult because the ball was too fast. I struck out, but I was ready again in my second at-bat. I felt like I couldn’t hit it if I looked at it, so I just tried to swing at the ball as it passed by, and I got a hit.
-I think I’ve gotten the hang of it.
Even if you don’t get a hit in one at-bat, you still have a chance in the next at-bat. Even if I can’t hit the starting pitcher, I can hit the next middle pitcher, so it’s psychologically comfortable.
-If you look at the game, there are many times when you make a mistake or make a bad play and then make a good play, like getting a hit. I think that’s because I’m mentally strong.
I think it’s also because I’m a starter. If you don’t do well, there’s always next time. I don’t think I’m particularly focused after a bad game. The game is not over yet, and new situations keep coming up, so I always think that I need to be prepared.먹튀검증
-Yeom Kyung-yeop, who said on the last day of the first half that if you can hit .300 and become a stolen base champion, you can challenge for the Golden Glove. In fact, you are currently batting .325 and leading the league in stolen bases. What are your plans for the second half?
Of course, I want to do well. But if I try to maintain it, I think I’ll fall off, so I’ll do what I’ve been doing. I’m going to stick to what I’ve been doing when I’m battling pitchers. I want to be a little more stable on defense.
-How do you feel about being first in stolen bases?
I’m No. 1 right now, but I don’t know. Compared to (Kim) Hye-sung, I think I have an advantage and Hye-sung has an advantage. It’s more important for the team to win and finish the season in first place than the title. I can’t just think about the title. I’ll look at the stolen bases.
-You seem to be playing the infield more than you have since high school. Isn’t this the kind of baseball you dreamed of playing as a kid?
It is. I saw a lot of second basemen in high school, and I’m playing second base for the first time since then. The coaches and my brothers help me a lot. (Kim) Hyun-soo and (Park) Hae-min always help me.
-I was talking about my teammates, and LG has a really strong batting lineup this year. Shin Min-jae has been batting like a number one hitter regardless of the top or bottom of the order.
In fact, no matter where I bat, I always play baseball as if I’m the No. 1 hitter, so I’m very concerned about getting on base, and if I see a ball that I can hit, I try not to miss it. I want to continue to play that kind of baseball regardless of the batting order. It’s a lot of fun to play baseball like this with good teammates.
-What was your most memorable play in the first half?
I think it was the throw to third base that I mentioned earlier. There were other defenses that could catch balls and others that could miss, but that was the most memorable.
-Your family is going to love that.
They do. My family is the most supportive. Last year, when I was in the second team, I only got to spend time with them once a week because I stayed almost 2,000 kilometers away. Now that I’m in the first team, I’m with them every day. I get to spend more time with them, and they love it.
-What do they say when they see their dad playing baseball?
They’re still very young. I just put on a baseball cap and they think I’m nine.