When it comes to the strongest dynasty in professional baseball history, the first team to be mentioned is definitely the Haitai Tigers, the predecessor of the KIA Tigers메이저놀이터. In addition to winning 9 times in total, the record of not losing a single time in the Korean Series is a rare case in world sports history. This power continues to the current KIA, continuing the tradition of winning 11 times without a single runner-up.
The scary thing about Haitai at the time was that the player base was thin and the starting players were not overwhelming compared to other teams, but they were particularly strong in big matches. Choi Hae-sik (54, Utu Uta), the protagonist of today’s interview, was also like that. Even considering his position as a catcher, his career batting average of .207, 17 home runs, and 165 RBIs does not seem to be particularly great. However, Choi Hae-sik in the Korean Series, including the playoffs, was different.
As a catcher, he was a seasoned matchmaker who played while reading the flow of the game while reliably guarding the home, and showed off his clutch ability in the match, breaking the brunt of the opposing team. This is also the reason why fans do not forget the name Choi Hae-sik even after a long time has passed. Accordingly, in ‘Power Interview’, we conducted an interview with Choi Hae-sik, who played a big role as the last hostess of the Haitai Dynasty at the time of the opening of professional baseball.
“Honestly, working at a Chinese restaurant was harder than baseball.”
– It is famous for its success as a Chinese restaurant specializing in delivery. Did you start right after retirement?
“It’s not like that. After retirement, I worked as an instructor at a high school. In the meantime, there was friction with the supervision. In the process of guiding, I beat the children severely and stopped them. I hit my head and it didn’t seem like it was really true. I’m a generation that was beaten and exercised, and even at that time there were some beatings, but using agricultural tools seemed purely personal emotion and only a way to vent my anger.”
– I wonder why you chose Chinese cuisine among many industries.
“I tried to become a broadcast commentator, etc. I had the opportunity. But at the time, my wife started a Chinese restaurant as a side job. My wife is doing hard work, but my husband can’t just go out and do the commentary I like. I got on.”
– Have you ever had Chinese cooking experience? Now I know you make your own food.
“I had no experience at all. In fact, it is true that the owner cooks Chinese food himself. You have to know how to cook it so that others can serve it. But the chefs don’t tell you well. While watching, I learned to cook and practiced cutting myself. It’s the same with other restaurants, but there are many chefs who are struggling. From the owner’s point of view, you can’t do business without a chef, so it’s common for you to drag around. I had a really hard time. Then I asked an acquaintance to introduce me to a good chef. I also wanted to learn and write. Then he introduced me. So we worked together and learned next to each other. After learning like that, I couldn’t eat children and do business. I’ve been working hard, and now I’m even teaching a chef. (Laughs)”
– I heard that the Chinese cuisine business is doing well and has a branch.
“At the height of the season, there were up to a dozen of them. But now, they’ve been drastically reduced. It’s hard to manage all of these, so when an accident happens at a branch, I get cursed at. I thought I couldn’t do that when I couldn’t do it. Only those who really sincerely want to work hard are with me. I think the present is just right.”
– Baseball or Chinese cuisine business, which was more difficult?
“As everyone knows, Chinese food delivery is one of the toughest industries. When it rains, it rains, when it snows, it snows, and when it’s hot, you sweat profusely. I would like to say that baseball is not physically strenuous, but there is such a thing as love from fans. There are times when I am stressed, but when I hear the shouts and cheers of the crowd at the stadium, I think I did well in baseball. On the other hand, when I go to deliver Chinese food, I go anywhere. I’m often ignored. I don’t treat people well. People just ignore me when I see something really strange, carry a delivery box, wear a helmet, and ride a motorcycle. There are a lot of people who say ‘Hey, hey’ and speak rudely.”
– You said a lot of hurtful words, right?
“That’s right. I’ve heard a lot of stories about ‘baseball player Choi Hae-sik going so far as to deliver jajangmyeon.’ “What kind of Chinese food does a professional baseball graduate deliver?” So I replied, “You have a lot of money, so it’s a wedding hall, but I’m poor, so I have to do this to live. Just treat me like an invisible person.” I remember doing it. Now that I’ve settled down to Chinese cuisine, I’m less, but until then I was afraid of getting hurt.”
– Baseball players now make a lot of money if they do well. However, as a player in the past, it seems that he did not earn as much money as the team said he should.
“Yes, you know. Haetae. Now it goes up by several hundred percent, but at the time, it would have gone up by about 25%. It was also very difficult. When I asked for a raise, I heard people say, ‘Do you know how many BravoCons you have to sell to get paid?’ (Laughs).”
“Thinking back, the trade was a good thing for me.”
– I wonder what motivated you to start playing baseball.
“In elementary school, it was Iri (Iksan) Elementary School. At that time, the baseball club was founded, and the teachers gathered big, good-looking kids. I think it started in the summer vacation of the 4th grade. It was a miracle as a new team at the time. So naturally, I went to Iksan Men’s Middle School, Men’s High School, and Konkuk University. I was good at baseball at that time, so I took three of my classmates with me when I went to Konkuk University. Actually, I wanted to go to Korea University or Yonsei University. If you don’t bring your friends, the school won’t stamp you, so I went to Konkuk University because I had to go with my friends.”
– When did you start playing catcher?
“I’ve been doing it since elementary school. I think my body shape was perfect for catching. But unfortunately, as I went up in grade, my physique wasn’t as big as I expected. At that time, I thought hard. “I was a catcher anyway, but I couldn’t give up just because I didn’t have the physique and strength, so I decided that I had to develop my own competitiveness. I think I thought a lot about how pitchers can become catchers who are comfortable throwing the ball.”
– I know that he is the first 1st designated player in the history of the Ssangbangul club.
“That’s right. I was number 1 in the first nomination. Probably, I was good at hitting. But when I came to the pros, a variable came up. I had a bad liver. Hepatitis came on. My body and mind became lethargic. I couldn’t do it. The sad thing about Ssangbangbang was that he was traded while he was in the army. I was so upset when I heard about the trade while I was serving in the military, so I decided, ‘I don’t play baseball.’ At that time, I was much more attached to my team than I am now. This was a strong era. I thought of Ssangbangbang as our team, but when I heard the news, it was like lightning. At that time, my seniors advised me, ‘Haetae is a team that focuses more on ability than any other team, so if you work hard, you will have an easier time getting a chance.’ I was able to see that the catcher layer was also thinner than the double drop, so I changed my mind.”
– Both as an individual player and from Haetae’s point of view, catcher Choi Hae-sik’s trade has become a ‘God’s move’.
“Coach Kim Eung-ryong doesn’t care about factions or seniors and juniors. He’s a style that gives ample opportunities and encourages players he wants to see. On the day he goes up on this mound, he said that he would like to form a battery with me. He has a great pitching form. But I was good at catching and was good at making the ball look like a strike through glove quality. This is very important. This If you do well, the pitchers will inevitably like it. There must be no reason for Dong-ryeol hyung to say that. The coach must have been watching carefully. First of all, the rate of pitchers throwing strikes has increased, and I have a fast throw, so it caught my eye. “
-In 1996, while protesting against the referee’s decision, he left a record of being sent off for the first time in Korean series history.
“Honestly, it was a situation where someone should have done it. Who would want to be sent off in a big game like the Korean Series? It’s every catcher’s dream to embrace the pitcher and enjoy the joy the moment the championship is confirmed. But the atmosphere at that time went over to the opposing team. I couldn’t stay still because I was on my way. The strike zone was strange. Only Hyundai favors it. It was unfair. I constantly thought, ‘This isn’t the case…’. I judged, ‘If it stays like this, nothing will change.’ Hey, won’t you catch me? Won’t you catch me?’ He kept asking me, implicitly giving me the need to protest.”
– I think there must have been a part where the atmosphere changed due to the exit.
“To some extent. As a result, I think the referee felt the pressure because I was sent off. As a result, I felt that this time the ball was judged in favor of our team. Of course, it may not be. But at least the unfairness that was before that One strike zone was barely visible. Of course, this isn’t a good thing. It’s just that the times were like that. Anyway, it’s true that the atmosphere that I almost passed over after my exit has changed.”
– There are still many people who are curious about the unique atmosphere of Haetae in the past. Even though you were active at the end of Haetae, how was the atmosphere at the time?
“The relationship between seniors and juniors was strict. Since it was not a financially well-off team, a culture of evil and bullying developed, and in the process, everyone showed their evil temper. But, should we say affection? That was stronger than any other team. There was a strong family-like atmosphere, such as worrying about something as if it were my own, and helping out in big and small matters. If you were strict, how did your grades come out? I think there were a lot of good points, so we got together well and won a lot of championships.”
– As a senior who has been through the Haitai Dynasty, it is true that KIA’s grades have not been very good since then. I want you to see the regrettable things when you watch from the outside.
“I don’t think this is a problem that I can’t argue with. I don’t know if it’s a similar era, but too much time has passed. Now, players as young as my children are playing, but the environment and thinking are all different. No. Perseverance! I mean to show perseverance. You can’t do that (laughs). My name has endured since school days and advanced to the professional level… Why can’t my friends now have guts? They just express it differently. Unlike our time, KIA has solid support from the parent company, and if you are good at baseball, you have nothing to be ashamed of. Following last year’s Kim Do-young, this year’s special rookie named Yoon Young-cheol is added, so I hope to continue the reputation of the strong Tigers by showing a better appearance. I will.”