“I have to work hard, and I have to be good.”
So says Lee Jung-hoo (25-Keum Heroes) as he embarks on his journey to Major League Baseball (MLB). Just as his close senior Kim Ha-seong (San Diego Padres) has raised the profile of Korean infielders, he hopes to be a springboard for his KBO teammates who dream of making it to the big leagues. “I will do my best to prepare and show good performance in MLB,” he reiterated.
After suffering a left ankle injury on July 22 against the Lotte Giants, Lee underwent surgery to suture the extensor digitorum longus (the membrane that wraps around the ankle tendon) and has been rehabbing ever since. He was added to the first-team roster on July 3, but he wasn’t fully fit enough to play free batting until July 9.
On the 10th, Lee stepped up to the plate in a home game against the Samsung Lions at the Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul. He came in as a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the eighth inning with the bases loaded and Kiwoom leading 5-3.
The 2023 KBO Baseball Game between the Kiwoom Heroes and the Samsung Lions was held at the Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul on Tuesday afternoon. Lee Jung-hoo, who came in as a pinch hitter in the eighth inning, is out on an infield grounder.
It was a comeback game and a farewell game. On this day, Kiwoom played its final home game. Lee will knock on the door of the MLB through the posting system (closed competitive bidding) when he finishes this season. His last game in a Kiwoom white (home) uniform. He stands on the field to say goodbye to the fans who have supported him for the past seven seasons (2017-2023).
The fans greeted Lee with loud cheers and applause as he took the bat. Some were even teary-eyed. Lee also bowed three times to the home and away fans. At the plate, he tried his best to cut the pitcher Kim Tae-hoon’s ball six times. After a 12-pitch at-bat, he was retired on a grounder to third base, but the stadium erupted as if he had gotten a hit.
When Lee finished his final at-bat at home, San Francisco Giants general manager Pete Putilla, who had traveled to Korea a few days earlier to watch Lee play, gave him a standing ovation.
There have been several reports in the U.S. media about San Francisco’s interest in Lee. San Francisco President of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi even mentioned Lee’s name. Futilla couldn’t help but be happy to see Lee swinging so strongly after being injured.
After the game, Lee said, “I think I was more nervous than before my debut, but I’m glad I was able to show the fans my last appearance on the field. I will never forget the past seven years of playing for Kiwoom.”
Local and international media have been reporting on Lee’s prospects for the big leagues. “I don’t care about the outside world. My agent is taking good care of my preparation. The same goes for the contract.” Lee signed with MLB big league agent Scott Boras in January.
He’s not saying which MLB team he’d like to play for or how much he’d like his contract to be. He’s focusing on what he can control. “The most important thing is to quickly integrate into the new league. This is common advice from seniors who have experienced the MLB stage first.”메이저사이트 “There is no guarantee that you can perform the same way you did in the KBO. Adaptation is the most important thing.” He continued, “I’m also studying English a little bit. I have to do it every day, but it’s not easy,” he laughed.
A conversation with Kim Ha-seong, a senior who made his big league debut, also gave him a sense of mission. “He once told me, ‘Sometimes I’m afraid that if I don’t make it, other Korean players will have a hard time making it to the MLB,'” Lee said. I feel the same way. We need to create a good image of Korean players for the next generation of MLB players. That’s why I have to do well,” he said emphatically.
The 2023 KBO Baseball Game between the Kiwoom Heroes and the Samsung Lions was held at the Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul on the afternoon of the 10th. Kiwoom’s Lee Jung-hoo, who played his last game at Gocheok Dome after returning from injury, greets the crowd after the game.
After returning home on Nov. 11 from his team’s schedule, Kim showed improved offense this season, posting the highest batting average (0.260) and most home runs (17) since his post-MLB debut. “I saw how he prepared last winter, so I knew he would do better this year,” said Lee Jung-hoo. “I’ll see him soon and ask him a lot of questions. He said he would help me too,” he said with a twinkle in his eye.
Lee greeted the home crowd after the end of Samsung Electronics on Tuesday. He also took a selfie on the mound with teammates Kim Hye-sung, Song Sung-moon, and Kim Jae-woong. Now, she will bury the memories of her first professional team, teammates, and fans, and move forward with her dreams in earnest.