The 2018 regular season in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) was meaningful for its youngest team, the KT Wiz, as it has finally moved out of the league cellar for the first time since 2015. The players could give a sigh of relief and wear a smile only after the team finished in ninth place by defeating the Doosan Bears 4-3 in its last game Saturday.
Mel Rojas Jr. of the KT Wiz hit two home runs in Saturday’s game held in Jamsil Baseball Stadium, one of which went over the right wall in the tenth to make the score 4-3. “I’m very pleased to see the team get out of last place,” Rojas said.
Remaining in the lower standings during the whole season, the Wiz’s overall atmosphere was far from being upbeat, but Rojas’ stunning performance certainly stood out. Joining the KBO league in the middle of last season, the American outfielder was in full blast this year with a 0.305 batting average, 43 home runs (second place), 114 RBIs (seventh place), and 18 stolen bases (tenth place).
He also became the first Wiz player who delivered 40 home runs and 100 RBIs, and the fifth foreign player who appeared in all 144 games. On May 29, he even hit for the cycle for the first time in the team’s history. “I could do this thanks to God’s blessing. I could have more extra-base hits, and I was overall satisfied,” said Rojas.
Ahead of the season earlier this year, Rojas’ muscular build drew attention as he had bulked up by eight kilograms during the winter. “I didn’t aim to bulk up, but rather got muscular and bigger while working out hard and being on a diet to produce more extra-base hits,” he said.
Meanwhile, it remains to be seen whether the Wiz’s superman will remain in the league till next season. “I hope to see you again next year,” said Rojas, leaving for the United States Sunday, but he used to always say that he wanted to become a big leaguer.
His father Mel Rojas was a closer with 126 saves in the Major League Baseball (MLB), and his uncle Moises Alou was an outfielder with the record of 332 home runs in 1,942 games in the same league. Rojas himself is strong-minded to build on the family’s legacy. Eric Thames, first baseman and outfielder of the Milwaukee Brewers who previously played for the NC Dinos, has also served as motivation to Rojas.
In the meantime, there is speculation that the KT Wiz will bring a new manager to replace Kim Jin-wook next year to freshen up the atmosphere, though a year is left till the termination of his contract. Some also speculate that new foreign players will join the team. Now eyes are fixed on how the KT Wiz will make a rough sketch of the next season to climb up the rankings farther from the bottom.
Bae-Jung Kim firstname.lastname@example.org