Posted October. 05, 2009 08:20,
Veteran relief pitcher Paul Byrd of the Boston Red Sox has gone 109-96 since his 1995 debut. He faced yesterday Choo Shin-soo of the Cleveland Indians, who was batting cleanup, with no outs and a man on first base in the seventh inning.
Byrds first pitch was a ball. His second moved toward the outer section of the strike zone, at which point Choo blasted the ball over the 11.3 meter-high Green Monster on the right-side fence at Fenway Park.
The moment was historic as Choo became the first Asian-born player to join the 20-20 club of 20 homers and 20 stolen bases.
Despite his team losing 11-6, Choo achieved the milestone and finished the game with two hits, three RBIs and one run scored. If the 27-year-old Korean keeps his batting average above .300 through the season finale against Boston today, he will become the only player in the American League to be a member of the 20-20 club and hit at least .300.
The 20-20 feat symbolizes an outstanding talent in baseball. Powerful hitters are usually slow at running, while fast runners hit more for average than power.
Through yesterday, only 12 players were members of the 20-20 club in the majors, including Matt Kemp of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who has 26 homeruns and 34 steals.
Choo is the fourth American League player and the eight in Clevelands history to get 20 homers and 20 stolen bases.
In Korean pro baseball, Kim Sung-han (Haitai) became the first to set the mark in 1989, followed by 21 players on 34 occasions through this season. Park Jae-hong of SK has joined the 20-20 club four times, including three occasions in which he achieved a 30-30.
Yet Choo has broken new ground for Asian players in the U.S. by joining the 20-20 club. Ichiro Suzuki of the Seattle Mariners, known for his superb batting, has yet to attain the mark in the majors since he does not hit many homers. His career high in homers was 15 in 2005.
Ichiro, however, did have 25 homers and 49 steals in 1995 when he played in the Japanese league. Fellow Japanese slugger Matsui Hideki of the New York Yankees has hit 20 or more homers in four of his seven Major League seasons, but his highest stolen base tally was just four in 2007.
Choo is also a bargain considering his milestone, earning just 420,000 U.S. dollars this year, his first full season in the majors.