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Big Choi draws Big Arch

Posted March. 10, 2004 22:44,   


“You slam a homer when I don’t play.” (Seo Jae-eung)

“Thank you, I am feeling that I will hit a home run today since I made good hits in batting practice.” (Choi Hee-seop)

It is a rare event that Korean players get together although they are major leaguers. But 25-year-old Choi (Seattle Mariners) faced Kim Seon-woo (27-year-old), Song Seung-joon (24-year-old, Montreal Expos) at the game in the previous day, and hung out with Seo Jae-eung, a senior of Kwangju Jeil high school on March 10.

At the road game against the New York Mets at Port Saint Lucie, Florida, Seo hit his first homer of the exhibition season. Were Seo’s good remarks effective?

Appearing as the cleanup hitter at first, Choi smashed an inside fastball of left-hander Pedro Feliciano over the right field fence 120m away with a runner on second base and no outs in the sixth inning with the Mariners trailing the Mets 0-1. It led to a 9-3 victory and was the game-winning RBI. It was his first homer in five games and 15 at bats. Choi Hee-seop also received big applause because of his good fielding on foul pops in the second and fourth innings.

It is being reported that Choi has been getting used to a new batting stance after he altered his crouching horse stance to a straighter standing stance over the winter. With the homer, he escaped from the harsh criticism of his weak point against lefty pitchers and overcame his tendency to pull hits to left after changing his batting stance.

ESPN franchise columnist Peter Gammons commented on him positively, saying, “Choi has been taught intensely by batting coach Bill Robinson since the spring camp opened. His batting stance has became more natural and quicker to the ball.”

Choi, with a pop-up to the left fielder in the firstt inning, struck out in the fourth inning and has managed 3 hits out of 15 at bats, good for a .200 batting average, 3 RBIs, 2 runs and 5 strikeouts in exhibition games.

“A light swing made a good homer. My batting condition is getting better lately and the confidence-boost was helpful,” said Choi.

Meanwhile, Seo, hit by a foul ball on his thigh, will start in the game against the Houston Astros for the first time in exhibition season.

Hwan Soo Zang zangpabo@donga.com