“When you put in all that work, you have to hit it well.”
Jose Rojas (30-Dusan Bears) went 2-for-2 with 10 home runs in 65 games played in the first half. That’s a lot of home runs, but not much better than a decent backup. Rojas was sent down to the second team, and Doosan even considered replacing him.
Rojas is still playing in the second half. Rojas made a dramatic rebound. In the last nine games of the first half of the season, Rojas batted 3-for-3 with a more refined batting average. He’s starting to prove why the first-year foreign player cap hit of $1 million was worth it heading into this season.
Rojas smiled at his rebound. “In the first half, I’m grateful for the experience of playing Korean baseball. I had a couple weeks where I got better and played well, so I feel good about that. Baseball is a team sport, and I think the team did a good job.”
Although he got off to a great start, including a dramatic walk-off home run in the opening game, he still had to adjust to the pressure of being a foreign player. When asked about his first-half struggles, Rojas said, “It was simple. I had a mental problem. I was hitting pitches that I should have hit harder, but I was trying to follow every pitcher’s style, and that was the biggest problem, so I’ve improved a lot in that area,” he said.
“I know there are high expectations for a foreign player like me in Korea. I wasn’t stressed about the expectations. I thought I had the potential to do better, and when it didn’t work out, I got stressed out, and I tried to make up for what I didn’t do in the beginning with my performance, so I tried to do better than I could. There was a time when I should have taken a step back, but it didn’t work out and I was stressed out.”
A break from the upswing. While it could have been a setback, Rojas welcomed it. “I don’t mind the break,” he says. Athletes definitely need a break, mentally and physically. I did a lot of mental work to maintain what I did well at the end of the first half. I’m going to try to hit the balls that I want and that I hit well.” Rojas showed the effectiveness of the break with a home run in the first game of the second half on April 21 against the KIA Tigers.
Doosan manager Lee Seung-yeop put Rojas in charge of the first team, assigning second-team coach Lee Young-soo to accompany him to the first team as Rojas’ slump grew longer. Whenever Rojas’ pace dropped, he would always ask Lee to “keep a good feeling” for him. “It would help the team a lot if he didn’t bat at bad pitches like he did at the end of the first half and hit good pitches,” Lee said, emphasizing that “he has to hit the ball well with his back to the plate.” 안전놀이터
Rojas said, “(Coach Lee) always told me to stay calm and not get excited when the results come out of the at-bats. You can do well. It gives you confidence,” he said.
Despite the perfect rebound, Rojas was a little more reserved: “I’m not satisfied yet. I won’t be satisfied until I get a result every time I step up to the plate,” he said with a smile, adding, “It’s not just me, everyone wants to win the game. If we do our best to win every game, I think we’ll have good results.”