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Heralding Birth of Korean Big Slugger

Posted September. 09, 2002 23:07,   


On September 8, Bush Stadium, which is the home stadium of St. Louis Cardinals was colored in red. Like the soccer stadiums where Korean national team plays turn red with Red Devils, Bush Stadium is filled with Cardinal fans wearing Cardinals’ traditional red uniform whenever there is a game.

It is the stadium where Cardinals’ legendary Mark McGwire recorded 70 homers in 1998, when Choi Hee-sup (23, Chicago Cubs), who is the first Korean batter in ML, did not yet advance.

On September 9, for the first time in his career, Choi has a chance to play in the ML at this stadium. In place of Fred McGriff, he was put in the starting lineup as the first base man hitting fifth.

In the 2nd, he got his first chance at bat. Runner on the first without any out. He punched a big “foul homer” into the right field stand. He might get a little stiff for that. He hit a ground ball to the second baseman, and blew up the chance with a double play.

In the 7th when his team was being led 0-2. It was 2 outs. Before Choi took his third chance at bat, McGriff, his rival for the first base and also big brother for him, gave him a tip. “Just hit the first ball.”

Simon threw his first ball, who did not allow any score up to that point. It was an inside fast ball reaching 148 km. It was the ball Choi was longing for. With a fresh sound, the ball shot through the air to the right fence. Choi, watching the ball for a while, smiled.

It was a big solo homer that flew 132m. It was his first ML hit in 7 times at bat, and the hit was a homer. It was the third homer by a Korean Major Leaguer. Previously, Park Chan-ho recorded 2 homers in 2000 as one of the Dodgers’ pitchers.

On March 2, 2000, Choi, as pinch hitter, punched the first ball over the fence and left a strong impression in the first demo game against San Francisco Giants. He must have a special talent of surprising others.

After running through the bases, Choi kissed on his left knuckles like his teammate Sammy Sosa does, celebrating his first career home run. He did this ceremony from time to time when he played in Triple A. Choi said, “I thought it was just a beginning, while running around the ground.”

Actually, Cubs lost the game 1-3. But Cubs earned a big achievement. Choi demonstrated a good future. Cubs manager Bruce also showed satisfaction and said, “He was satisfactory at batting and in defense.”

His batting average in 4 games is 0.143 (1 for 7) with 1 RBI. His team will take on Montreal Expos for three consecutive games. Since his college senior Kim Sun-woo belongs to Montreal, it is expected that the two as a hitter and a pitcher might face each other for the first time in the Korean Major Leaguers’ history.

Sang-Soo Kim ssoo@donga.com