A midweek series between teams going in opposite directions in South Korean baseball will put the spotlight firmly on their skippers, with a franchise icon for one team paying his first visit to his old stadium as an opposing manager.
Former Samsung Lions slugger Lee Seung-yuop will manage the Doosan Bears against his former club in a three-game set starting Tuesday evening at Daegu Samsung Lions Park in Daegu, his hometown located some 290 kilometers southeast of Seoul.
It will be Lee's first visit to Daegu as manager.
Lee owns the all-time Korea Baseball Organization record with 467 home runs, all of them hit in Lions uniform from 1995 to 2003, and again from 2012 to 2017, with an eight-season stint in Japan thrown in the middle. The five-time regular season MVP is hands down the greatest Lion ever. He is so beloved in Daegu that a wall behind the right field stands is adorned with graffiti of his portrait.
To the surprise of many, Lee's first managerial job came last fall not with the Lions, but with the Bears, a Seoul-based franchise with whom Lee had no history during his playing days. Lions fans say they are still trying to get used to seeing Lee in colors other than Samsung's blue and white.
And it will be in that strange uniform that Lee will be managing a team against the Lions.
"Obviously, as a former Samsung player, I think I will have special feelings going up against that team in Daegu," Lee previously said of a series against the Lions. "But now, I have to put the Doosan Bears above all else. I will be out there trying to win games for Doosan."
The Bears hired Lee after missing the postseason in 2022 -- this after playing in every Korean Series from 2015 to 2021. They weren't expected to contend this year, but under Lee's tutelage, they're off to a solid start at 11-7-1 (wins-losses-ties), just one game out of first place.
Sitting in the opposite dugout from Lee will be one of his closest friends in baseball, Lions skipper Park Jin-man. This is Park's first year as full-time boss after he spent the second half of last season as an interim boss.
Park, too, played for the Lions, though he and Lee, both 46, were never teammates in the KBO. Instead, they shared some memorable moments for the South Korean national team, winning the 2008 Olympic gold medal being their international highlight.
One of the greatest defensive shortstops in KBO history, Park spent a few years coaching in the Lions organization before taking the managerial reins this year.
They have stumbled out of the gate this season, though, with a 7-12 record putting them in ninth place among 10 teams. They have dropped four straight games. Park and the rest of the Lions will have to overcome distractions of having Lee in Daegu for the first time. (Yonhap)