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Lee Yong-kyu’s hidden efforts to break Hanwha’s losing streak

Lee Yong-kyu’s hidden efforts to break Hanwha’s losing streak

Posted June. 16, 2020 07:48,   

Updated June. 16, 2020 07:48


“It is important to show through performance, rather than words,” Lee Yong-kyu of the Hanwha Eagles kept repeating the above during a phone conversation. Rather than feeling a sense of relief from breaking the long period of consecutive losses, he seemed more worried about over 100 games remaining in the season. “All plays must have felt a lot of emotions during the period of consecutive losses,” said Lee over the phone on Sunday. “I was also reminded of the desperate desire to win.”

The Hanwha Eagles could put a stop to its 18 consecutive losses on Saturday – the longest losing streak tie record of the KBO League – partially thanks to the hidden efforts of Lee who is the team’s leader. Lee got on base as the first hitter of the bottom of the ninth inning with a walk and scored later. Earlier in the bottom of the seventh inning, he got his with a ball in his calf without avoiding the pitcher’s ball and walked to the first base. All in all, his performance was enough to boost his teammates’ morale.

It is not just on the ground where the team leader’s values shine. The 35-year-old sits right at the entrance a dugout and enthusiastically cheers his teammates when his team is batting. In the beginning of the season, he openly raised an issue regarding the consistency of a referee’s strike-ball decisions. Those close to him say that Lee is more dedicated to the team after he returned to the ground following the indefinite suspension for requesting a trade last year.

Lee also takes good care of younger players as seen in the example of paying for meals and accommodations during a pre-season training session along with Roh Tae-hyung who made a winning hit on Saturday to stop the losing streak. “I felt bad for leaving the pressure on Tae-hyung. I was very grateful as he led the team to a win as expected. He was really great,” said Lee of looking at Roh at bat from the third base.

There were some very stressful times. “I was young at the time and thought I should just focus on my own performance on the ground as there were many more experienced players in the team,” Lee said on the experience of 16 consecutive losses as a member of the Kia Tigers in 2010. “However, it was different now as I am one of the older players. I find it difficult that my encouraging words to low-spirited younger players can actually add more pressure on them. I tried not to say much before games.” Other older players of the team, Kim Tae-kyun and Jung Woo-ram, also agreed with him to motivate younger players through actions on the ground, rather than words. Kim who often buys nice meals or baseball equipment for younger players got his first home run of the season against the Doosan Bears on Saturday, boosting the morale of the team before the game was suspended.

“I want to apologize to our fans who consistently show support regardless of the team’s performance,” said Lee. “Even though the losing streak ended, we still have many things we’d like to showcase for our fans. I will do my best for the rest of the games with professional attitude and actions.”

Hong-Gu Kang windup@donga.com