Lee Seung-yup (46), SBS TV’s baseball commentator who retired from the Samsung Lions in 2017, is returning to the baseball park as manager of the Doosan Bears for the first time in five years. Lee, who was nicknamed “Lion King” (after his former team) was the first player in Korean baseball to take a retirement tour by visiting different ballparks just before his retirement.
Doosan said Friday it signed a three-year contract with Lee worth a total of 1.8 billion won (1.255 million US dollars) including the signing bonus of 300 million won (209,000 dollars) and an annual salary of 500 million won (349,000 dollars). The compensation is the biggest ever among new first-year managers in the Korean pro-baseball league. It is an amount living up to his reputation as a “national batter,” but it is nonetheless a surprise when considering he has no previous experience as a coach or manager in pro baseball.
Five managers have had bigger deals with Doosan than Lee, including Kim Tae-hyung who signed a three-year extension contract worth 2.8 billion won (1.95 million dollars) including a signing bonus of 700 million won (488,000 dollars) and an annual salary of 700 million won in 2019 after leading the team to the Korean Series championship. They all had experience in taking the team to the Korean Series or its championship title.
Lee is a legendary player at the Samsung Lions whose the uniform number of 36 will remain vacant forever. “I received too much love from fans when I was an active player,” Lee said. “I have been constantly thinking to myself that I should repay all the love that I received by becoming a manager. Then, Doosan invited me to join and I agonized before accepting (the offer to appoint me to its manager).”
Despite having enjoyed immense popularity as a “national batter,” as a manager he will no longer be free from the responsibility and fans’ criticism against him for the team’s performance. “A professional should endure such pressure and burden. I renewed my commitment to overcoming such burden and pressure,” Lee said in expressing his determination. Lee’s inaugural ceremony will take place at Jamsil Baseball Park in Seoul next Tuesday.
On the situation wherein Lee will start his management career with Doosan rather than Samsung, a ranking official in the baseball community said that Samsung would naturally have a concern about the possibility of having to fire Lee and the resulting ramifications after recruiting the legendary player who has had no experience as coach or manager. “Other than former national team manager Sun Dong-yul and Lee, Doosan has found no baseball leader who is deemed qualified to replay former manager Kim,” the official said. “Joining Doosan was less burden on Lee than Samsung because the team is not a winner in the league.”
Lee, who made his pro baseball debut at Samsung in 1995, was a slugger who represented not only Korea but Asia. He ranked first in overall career homers (467), a record that has yet to be broken even today.
Bo-Mi Im firstname.lastname@example.org