If indeed this was his final at-bat for the Texas Rangers, South Korean veteran Choo Shin-soo has gone out in the only way he knows how: playing hard.
With his family watching from the stands, Choo came off the injured list and put a bunt down for a single against the Houston Astros at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, on Sunday (local time).
Choo was lifted for a pinch runner after spraining his left ankle on that play.
The 38-year-old outfielder/designated hitter had been out since Sept. 7, after hurting his right hand on a slide home. He wasn't expected to play again this year, but the Rangers made sure Choo wouldn't end the year -- and likely his Texas tenure -- on the injured list, by activating him for Sunday.
Choo batted in his customary leadoff spot, which he offered to cede to younger players earlier in the season so the Rangers could develop his successor. Choo's wife, Ha Won-mi, and their three children were on hand to witness what turned out to be Choo's last at-bat of 2020.
The Astros had the shift on for Choo, and third baseman Alex Bregman was positioned far off the bag, toward the second base side. Choo bunted down the third base line and beat Bregman's throw to first.
Choo took a tumble after getting his left foot down on the first base bag, and Willie Calhoun replaced him as the pinch runner.
Back in the dugout, Choo received hugs from teammates. The Rangers went on to win 8-4.
"I will never forget today," Choo was quoted as saying by MLB.com. "I know 2020 was a hard time for everybody in the world, but I think today, I will never forget this."
Choo was thinking of getting a pinch-hit appearance on Sunday, but manager Chris Woodward instead inserted him into the starting lineup. Choo acknowledged he wasn't even healthy enough to "hold the bat with one hand," but he still wanted to get out there and send a message to young players.
General manager Jon Daniels invited Choo's family as a surprise for the veteran. No fans have been allowed at major league games this season because of the coronavirus pandemic, but there they were, wearing masks, appearing on the scoreboard when Choo came to the plate.
"I really appreciate it," Choo said. "I walked in the batter's box, and I saw the scoreboard. They showed my family, so it made me very emotional. But I told myself to focus. I was really focused on that at-bat."
Choo said he would have stayed in the game and even tried to steal second base if he hadn't hurt his ankle on the bunt single.
Choo ended the season with a .236/.323/.400 line in 33 games, with five home runs, 15 RBIs and six steals
This is the final year of Choo's seven-year deal with the Rangers. The free agent-to-be has said he feels he can still play in the bigs, though the rebuilding Rangers may not have a spot for him in 2021. (Yonhap)