Preparing to enter ML… Lee Jung-hoo cheers for Jung-den colleagues “May they rebound next year”
Lee Jung-hoo (25), one of the best hitters in the KBO, has left a message of support for his Kiwoom Heroes teammates.
Kiwoom lost its final game of the season against SSG Landers, 2-3, in the 2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO League at SSG Landers Field in Incheon on Wednesday. The game was tied 1-2 through the eighth inning before Kim Hwijip hit a tying solo home run off SSG closer Seo Jin-yong in the top of the ninth, but the game ended on an error by first baseman Lim Ji-yeol in the bottom of the ninth.
Kiwoom’s 2023 season is over. The game against SSG was the last game of the year. Kiwoom ended the season with two straight losses. After playing the longest in the Korean Series last year, battling SSG for the title, Kiwoom ended their season early this year.
Lee Jung-hoo remained on the bench for the rest of the day. Hong Won-ki used the following batting order: Kim Hye-sung (second base), Dawson (center field), Lee Ju-hyung (designated hitter), Kim Hwi-jip (shortstop), Song Sung-moon (third base), Lim Ji-yeol (first base), Park Soo-jong (right field), Kim Jae-hyun (catcher), and Park Chan-hyuk (left field).
Lee cheered on his teammates from the bench until the end of the game. He had one at-bat against the Samsung Lions in Gochuk’s last home game on April 10, 먹튀검증 but did not play against Incheon. Many Kiwoom fans traveled to Incheon to watch Kiwoom’s season finale, including Lee, but Hong didn’t push him too hard.
It was the last group of batting practice before the game that Lee swung the bat. “I pushed him a bit in the last game at home. He’s not 100% yet. There is a risk of injury, so I don’t think he will play today,” Hong said.
Lee signed autographs and posed for photos with fans waiting in the parking lot before the game to show his appreciation for their support.
Lee, who was drafted in the first round in 2017, has spent seven seasons in the KBO before this year. Although he didn’t play much this year due to an early season slump and a mid-season injury. In 86 games, Lee batted 3-for-105 (330 at-bats) with six home runs, 45 RBIs, and an OPS of .861.
Last season, he batted .349 (193-for-553) with 23 home runs, 113 RBIs and a .996 OPS in 142 games, winning five batting titles (batting average, slugging percentage, on-base percentage, runs scored and RBIs) and the league MVP. Lee will be joining the major leagues via a post-season post.
“If today is really the last time, I’ll feel bad (saying goodbye to the fans), but I don’t know what will happen yet,” Lee said cautiously. However, Lee has already received interest from major league teams.
According to The Athletic, “Speaking of Lee, the Yankees are definitely in the market for him. The Yankees scouted Lee this season. The Yankees have scouted Lee this season.” The Athletic’s Jim Borden ranked Lee 27th in this year’s free agent rankings.
“Major league teams are intrigued by Lee’s solid outfield defense and the fact that he has drawn more walks (383) than strikeouts (304) in his career,” he added, “The Yankees will likely try to sign him. However, San Diego and San Francisco, where fellow Korean player Ha-Sung Kim plays, have also been linked to Lee.”
Recently, San Francisco Giants general manager Pete Putilla traveled to Seoul’s Gocheok Sky Dome to watch Lee’s training and final at-bat in Korea.
Lee’s preparation for the major leagues hasn’t changed. After eight seasons in the KBO and seven seasons as an outright free agent, he’ll be knocking on the major league door through the posting system.
His determination is also strong, which is why the last game with his Jeongden teammates will be bittersweet. “I’m sorry that today is my last game with my teammates,” he said.
He also feels sorry for his fans. Recalling his last game and last at-bat in Gochuk on the 10th, Lee said, “I was very nervous. When I finally stepped into the batter’s box, I felt less nervous.” “Later, I saw a video of the fans cheering for me. I was so grateful. I hope I don’t get hurt (by the ankle injury), but it was an honor to be able to make a comeback in the midst of so many fans’ hospitality.”
Lee will be ready for a new challenge when Kiwoom’s season ends on Nov. 13. As he goes through the final stages of rehabilitation and looks toward the big leagues, he has a few words for his teammates who will have to say goodbye.
“There are a lot of rookies this year,” he said, “and in the professional world, I don’t think it’s ‘you can make mistakes because you’re young’. It’s not about age. We’re professional baseball players. Baseball is not about age. I hope they don’t take small mistakes lightly.”
Lee Jung-hoo, who will be working on his own body in the future, said, “We couldn’t do it this year. I hope we can prepare well from this year’s final camp to next year’s spring training. Baseball is a team sport, but I think the stronger the individual is, the stronger the team will be. I hope I can train with that in mind. I hope we prepare well. I think the team will definitely be able to rebound next year.”