Like most players in the clubhouse, Seung Hwan Oh was excited to learn the news that baseball would be returning as an Olympic sport in 2020.
The St. Louis Cardinals reliever was part of the South Korean team that captured the Gold Medal in 2008 at Bejing–the last time the sport was part of the Olympic games.
“No one was expecting Korea to win a Gold Medal and we actually won the every game,” recalled Oh, with the aid of translator Eugene Koo.
While the external expectations were low for Oh and his teammates, within his country there was a different level of anticipation.
“Korea has a lot of people and a lot of attention,” he explained. “They think of the Olympics as an important international match so everybody was already kind of up against it already. Expectations were pretty high and there was a lot of focus on the team.”
Oh was the winning pitcher after throwing two innings in South Korea’s 1-0 victory over China and later earned a save against Cuba in a 7-4 victory later in round-robin play.
“Of course, the goal was to win something out of the three medals,” said Oh. “We were trying to set that goal, but in the end it was good.”
Cuba earned the Silver and the United States took home the Bronze.
So will South Korea be ready to successfully defend their Gold Medal in 2020?
“We’re still in the process of developing a national team, so we don’t have set team players yet,” answered Oh, who has his Gold Medal tucked away safely at home in Korea. “We’ll have to see what it’s going to be like.”
What about the chance that a then 39-year old Stone Buddha could be available to close out the games for his country?
“Me? I’ve got to let the younger guys go now,” laughed Oh.
photo credit: Bill Greenblatt/UPI, Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports