“I want to play better,” says Son, the number one player in the world.

Seventeen-year pro veteran Son Ah-seop (35-NC Dinos) has finally established himself as a top-10 hitter.

Son is batting .339 (187-for-551) this season. First among the 50 batters who reached base in regulation. The second through fourth-ranked players (Koo Ja-uk, Kim Hye-sung, and Hong Chang-ki) completed the regular season schedule ahead of time, securing the title of batting champion regardless of the results on the final day (Nov. 17). This is the first time Son has won the batting title since his debut in 2007.

Son has a career batting average of over 0.320. He is a self-proclaimed “hitting machine,” ranking fourth on the all-time hitting list with over 3,000 at-bats. However, titles have eluded him. He finished third in 2012 and 2014, and second in 2013 and 2020. Kim Tae-gyun (former Hanwha Eagles), Choi Hyung-woo (KIA Tigers), and Lee Jung-hoo (Kiwoom Heroes) were the “second best” batsmen, but this season was different. Son is only the third NC player to win the batting title, after foreigner Eric Theems in 2015 and Yang Ji (now Doosan) in 2019.

Son signed a free agent (FA) contract with NC in December 2021 for up to 6.4 billion won (2.6 billion won in signing bonus, 3 billion won in total annual salary, and 800 million won in incentives). His batting average dropped to 0.277 last year (0.319 in 2021), his first season in the league, prompting some to wonder if he was overpaid. His age, in his mid-30s, also raised concerns about the “aging curve,” a phenomenon in which athletic performance declines at a certain age, leading to a decline in skill. Son prepared for the incisors season in the United States last winter. He worked tirelessly to restore his broken hitting mechanics. 메이저놀이터

His performance this season is a testament to his grit. After going 0-for-5 against the Doosan Bears in Jamsil in June, Son went home and took 50 swings. “I didn’t sleep well,” he said of his self-reflection, but he rebounded with two consecutive multi-hit games. “(Son) always thinks about baseball and only focuses on baseball on the field, and I think those things have come together to create consistency (at the plate),” said NC hitting coach Song Ji-won. When he moved into sole possession of second place on the KBO’s all-time hits list in July, Son was adamant: “I’m not going to worry about any records.” As the team’s captain and veteran, he spent the year with a special determination.

The slugger even won the title for most hits. Now, his eyes are set on the postseason (PS). Son’s last PS appearance was in 2017 with the Lotte Giants. Unlike his spectacular individual career, his fall baseball resume is mediocre. That’s why there’s a lot of interest in his PS results. “I want to hit better,” says Son, who will lead the NC batting lineup.