“I hope you rebound next year.”

Kiwoom lost 2-3 in the final game of the season against SSG Landers of the 2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO League at SSG Landers Field in Incheon on the 13th. After being dragged 1-2 until the eighth inning, Kim Hwi-jip hit a tiebreaking solo home run against SSG closer Seo Jin-yong in the top of the ninth inning, but the game ended with a mistake by first baseman Lim Ji-yeol in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Kiwoom’s 2023 season is over. It was the last game of the year against SSG. Kiwoom ended the season with two consecutive losses. Kiwoom, which had the longest baseball competition with SSG on the Korean Series stage last year, finished the season the earliest this year.

Lee Jung-hoo was on the bench in the end. Coach Hong Won-ki set the batting order in the order of Kim Hye-sung (second baseman), Dawson (center fielder), Lee Ju-hyung (designated hitter), Kim Hwi-jip (shortstop), Song Sung-moon (third baseman), Lim Ji-yeol (first baseman), Park Soo-jong (right fielder), Kim Jae-hyun (catcher) and Park Chan-hyuk (left fielder).

Lee Jung-hoo cheered his teammates on the bench until the end of the game. He entered the batter’s box once against the Samsung Lions in the last game of Gocheok home on the 10th, but he could not play in the away game in Incheon. Many Kiwoom fans, including Lee Jung-hoo, accompanied Kiwoom on the away road to Incheon to watch the final game of the season, but coach Hong did not overdo Lee Jung-hoo.

Lee Jung-hoo swung the bat in the last group of batting practice before the game. Coach Hong said, “In the last game at home, I went a little too far. It’s not 100% yet. “It will be difficult to play today because there is a risk of injury,” he said.

Lee Jung-hoo signed autographs for fans who waited in the parking lot before the game and took commemorative photos together to express his gratitude to fans who joined him on the Incheon expedition.

Lee Jung-hoo, who entered the professional stage after receiving the first nomination in 2017, has spent seven seasons in the KBO League so far this year. Although this year, he did not play much due to a slump in the early season and injuries in the middle of the season. He hit .318 (105 hits in 330 at-bats) with six home runs and 45 RBIs and OPS .861 in 86 games.

Last season, he played in 142 games with a batting average of 349 (193 hits in 553 at-bats) and 23 home runs, 113 RBIs, and OPS.996, winning five batting medals (batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, most hits, and RBIs) and league MVP. Lee Jung-hoo will advance to the Major League through posting after the end of the season.

Lee Jung-hoo said carefully, “If today is really the last day, I think I’ll be disappointed (with the fans), but I don’t know what will happen yet.” However, Lee Jung-hoo is already attracting attention from Major League teams.

The Athletic, an American media outlet, said, “Talking about Lee Jung-hoo, the Yankees are certainly watching the recruitment market after Lee Jung-hoo. The Yankees scouted Lee Jung-hoo this season. Lee Jung-hoo also ranked 27th in this year’s FA rankings selected by Jim Boden of The Athletic, he said.

Major League teams are also interested in the fact that Lee Jung-hoo showed solid outfield defense and drew more walks (383) than his career strikeouts (304), he said. “The Yankees are likely to try to recruit Lee Jung-hoo.” However, San Diego and San Francisco, where Kim Ha-sung, the same Korean player, plays, are also connected to Lee Jung-hoo, he said.

Recently, San Francisco Giants general manager Pete Putilla visited Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul to watch Lee Jung-hoo’s training process and his last at-bat in Korea.

Lee Jung-hoo’s preparation for the major league stage remains unchanged. Lee Jung-hoo’s entry into the U.S. is considered a fait accompli, as he will play for seven seasons and knock on the major league door through the posting system, not the complete FA, after eight seasons in the KBO League.

He has a strong will. Therefore, the last game with his close teammates can be disappointing enough. “I’m sorry that today is my last day with my colleagues,” he said.

I still feel sorry for the fans. Lee Jung-hoo recalled the last game of Gocheok and the last at-bat on the 10th and said, “I was very nervous. When I entered the batter’s box, I felt less nervous, he said. “Later, I watched a video that fans cheered a lot.” I was so thankful. “I hope you don’t get hurt (injured ankle), but it was an honor to return to the hospitality of many fans,” he said.

Lee Jung-hoo will prepare for a new challenge with the end of Kiwoom’s season on the 13th. He looks at the big league stage as he goes through the final stage of rehabilitation. As a result, I left a word to my colleagues who were supposed to break up.

I also gave advice to rookies. “A lot of new players came in this year,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a matter of ‘you can make mistakes because you’re young’ in the professional world.” It’s not about age. We are professional baseball players. Baseball is not based on age. I don’t want even small mistakes to be overlooked lightly,” he said.

Lee Jung-hoo, who will build his body personally in the future, said, “We couldn’t do it this year. I hope we can prepare well from this year’s closing camp to next year’s spring camp. Baseball is a team sport, but I think that if individuals become stronger, the team becomes stronger. I wish I could train with that in mind. I hope you prepare well. Our team will definitely rebound next year,” he said.


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