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Wins Put Korean Baseball in Spotlight

Posted March. 15, 2006 03:03,   


“Seung Yeop Lee`s bat is made of dynamite, so his swing doesn`t have to be,” a story on Major League Baseball’s official website said yesterday.

For many American baseball fans, Korean baseball is off their radar. Korea is one of a handful of Asian countries that actually play baseball. But the World Baseball Classic (WBC) may have given some Americans a new perspective on baseball as an international pastime.

American media outlets used the term “shocking” to describe the Korean national team’s victory over Japan in the Asian qualifier held on March 5. That same Korean team defeated the U.S. team, 7-3, in the WBC quarterfinals yesterday.

After the match, the U.S. sports reporters used one phrase in particular to explain what they saw: “That was baseball.” Many U.S. fans could not believe what happened either.

The U.S. baseball establishment’s attitude toward Team Korea after began changing after Korea beat Mexico 2-1 on March 13.

Reporters from ESPN, New York Times, and the Star Telegram visited the Korean dugout before yesterday’s game. Their focus was on Korean slugger Lee Seung-yeop (Yomiuri), who had hit four home runs in four games, including a decisive two-run shot against Mexico. They also focused on Padres starter Park Chan-ho, who has notched three saves as the Korean team’s closer.

When the New York Times was asking Lee questions, Heo Gu-yeon, an MBC commentator interpreting for Lee, called him the “Korean Babe Ruth.”

After Lee hit his fifth home run in the game against the U.S. yesterday, Major League Baseball’s official website ran a headline: “Lion King [Lee’s nickname] flies once again.”

Baseball superagent Scott Boras praised the slugger on March 13, saying, “Lee Seung-yeop is capable of hitting 30 homeruns in Major League Baseball.”

Park, whose Major League career was considered on the decline due to frequent injuries and slumps, was also the center of attention. “Bruce Bochy of San Diego joked that he might as well make a closer out of you,” a reporter mentioned. “Then I’ll never go back to San Diego,” Park joked back in fluent English.