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Lee Joo-young goes to bat for hope in ‘Baseball Girl’

Lead cast Lee Joon-hyuk (left) and Lee Joo-young attend
Lead cast Lee Joon-hyuk (left) and Lee Joo-young attend "Baseball Girl" press conference held in Seoul on Monday. (Sidus Picutres)

There are moments in life when we persevere, believing in our dreams and efforts, even as the rest of the world does not. Such trust in oneself makes the impossible possible.

That is the message of upcoming indie film “Baseball Girl,” the story of 18-year-old Joo Su-in, who strives to join a professional baseball team.

Directed by Choi Yun-tae, the film features rising actress Lee Joo-young as Su-in and Lee Joon-hyuk as Su-in’s coach Choi Jin-tae.

According to Lee Joo-young, making the film itself was a process of persuading herself of Su-in’s perseverance in pursing the seemingly impossible dream.

“Su-in is constantly discouraged by everyone around her. Although I had to forge ahead as Su-in, even I doubted Su-in’s path. I once told the director that I couldn’t really understand how she could manage to continuously push herself to the wall,” Lee said during the film’s preview event held in Seoul on Monday.

“I think I depended a lot on Su-in’s words throughout the filming. There’s a scene where Su-in tells the coach ‘I don’t give up without trying.’ This is perhaps the hardest punch she could throw at the coach who tries to discourage her. That line played an essential part in building Su-in’s character,” Lee added.

Su-in does not stop with just pursuing her dream and fighting prejudices. She also persuades people wary of her actions and persistence. The coach, once sure that Su-in would fail, becomes her strongest supporter.

“I actually had a similar experience. A rookie actor once asked me for advice and I mostly talked about bleak aspects. Reading the film’s script, I felt sorry, realizing that the actor had come to me for encouragement. I called him back and gave him empowering words. I think this film is that empowering message,” actor Lee Jun-hyuk said.

“Baseball Girl” poster (Sidus Pictures)
“Baseball Girl” poster (Sidus Pictures)

The two actors trained together for a month with professional baseball players ahead of filming.

“Training with male athletes, I thought that the emotions I felt then are not so different from what Su-in would have felt in her school team. I think I became much closer to Su-in then,” the actress said.

The 28-year-old actress won the Independent Star Award at last year’s Seoul Independent Film Festival for her role as Su-in.

While such a success story may strike some as cliche, the realistic portrayal from the two leading actors and veteran supporting actors -- Yeom Hye-ran and Song Young-kyu star as Su-in’s parents -- completes the full portrait of Su-in and her family’s long haul toward her goal. 

Director Choi had originally planned a film about women’s rights in the sports scene.

“The film is based on an interview I read in 2017 about a girl playing baseball. Back then, my wife told me she did not know that women were eligible to become professional baseball players, and when I told her yes, she seemed really surprised. I thought it would be worth making a film related to the story,” Choi said.

In 1996, the clause that prohibited women from playing was removed from the rule governing professional baseball here.

Through discussions with actress Lee and changes to the script, the story that initially focused on women’s rights in the sports world was expanded to a message about achieving one’s dreams, Choi said.

“Baseball Girl” is set to open in theaters on June 18.

By Choi Ji-won (