Korean baseball's greatest slugger 'happy' after final All-Star Game

By Catherine Chung
  • Published : Jul 16, 2017 - 09:39
  • Updated : Jul 16, 2017 - 09:39

DAEGU -- The greatest slugger ever in South Korean baseball played in his final All-Star Game before home fans on Saturday, picking up a double while doing everything in his power to deflect attention from himself.

Lee Seung-yuop of the Samsung Lions was 1-for-5 with a double and an RBI, as his Dream Team defeated the Nanum Team 13-8 in the annual Korea Baseball Organization All-Star Game. The midsummer classic was played at Daegu Samsung Lions Park in Daegu, the home park of the Lions located in Lee's hometown.

Lee, 40, will retire after the 2017 season, having spent his entire 15-year KBO career with the Lions. Lee also had an eight-season stint in Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball from 2004 to 2011.

Lee Seung-yuop of the Samsung Lions takes the field before the start of the annual Korea Baseball Organization All-Star Game at Daegu Samsung Lions Park in Daegu on July 15, 2017. (Yonhap)

The KBO and All-Star participants did the best they could to pay proper respects to the league's career home run leader. Lee had an autograph session prior to the game, and he was also busy signing balls for fellow KBO players, more than a few of whom grew up idolizing the legend.

Lee took the field with his two boys, Eun-hyuk and Eun-joon, for the ceremonial first pitch. KBO Commissioner Koo Bon-neung presented Lee with a commemorative All-Star jersey.

The KBO wanted to schedule more festivities to celebrate Lee's career before his Daegu fans, but the humble veteran told the league that he didn't want to take so much of the spotlight because the All-Star Game should be a festival for everyone, not just himself.

Lee started the game batting fifth as the designated hitter, and played the entire nine innings. And he has more than earned his way into the starting lineup, as he's hit 16 home runs and driven in 55 runs in 81 games.

Lee was retired in his first two plate appearances, before hitting a double in the fourth to stake the Dream Team to an 11-0 lead.

Lee drew a walk in the sixth, but had a groundout in the seventh and a pop out in the ninth.

He leaves with a career All-Star mark of .220 batting average (11-for-50) with three home runs and six RBIs.

"This last All-Star Game was a lot of fun," Lee said. "I am even happier now than I was during my prime years in the early 2000s. I really want to thank the fans for their support."

Originally drafted out of high school as a pitcher in 1995, Lee converted into first baseman as a pro and developed into the greatest home run hitter in the KBO's 35-year history.

Lee is the KBO's all-time leader with 459 home runs, 1,465 RBIs, 1,328 runs scored and 3,979 total bases. These totals would have been higher had Lee not spent eight seasons in Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball from 2004 to 2011.

Lee also owns the KBO's single-season home run record with 56 from the 2013 season. He is a five-time regular season MVP and remains the only player to win the top individual award in three consecutive seasons (2001 to 2003).

Lee said he would have liked to hit a home run in his final All-Star appearance, saying he had his chances.

"Early in the game, I got some pitches to hit and I couldn't get the job done," Lee said. "I tried to go for the fences but things didn't quite go my way. As the game wore on, the pitchers didn't throw me anything to hit."

Lee said it'll be back to business when the regular season resumes on Tuesday. The Lions are mired in yet another disappointing season, ranked ninth among 10 clubs at 34-51-3 (wins-losses-ties). They finished the 2016 season in ninth place, a year after finishing runner-up.

"We play 56 more games in the second half, and since I've played 1,852 games, this will be a really short journey," he said.

"I have to show the fans as much as I can over that time, so that I'll be able to leave this game without regrets." (Yonhap)