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Lee Jung-hoo scores a hit in first MLB exhibition game

Posted February. 29, 2024 07:47,   

Updated February. 29, 2024 07:47


San Francisco Giants center fielder Lee Jung-hoo lives up to his nickname of “Son of the Wind” as a superstar by successfully hitting the base at his first at-bat in his first game.

Lee started as the first hitter and center fielder in the Major League Baseball (MLB) game against Seattle held at Scottsdale Stadium in Arizona, USA, the home stadium of the exhibition game on Wednesday, recording one hit and one run in 3 at-bats.

Lee, who had not entered the previous three exhibition games due to mild side pains, played in an official MLB game for the first time today. He stepped up to the plate as the lead batter in the bottom of the first inning when the team was down 0-2 and hit a breaking ball on the third pitch by right-handed pitcher George Kirby in a no-ball, two-strike situation that rolled toward right field. Kirby, who achieved eight wins in his debut season in 2022 and 13 wins last year, is Seattle's next-generation ace who also participated in the All-Star Game last year.

He stepped on first base and attracted attention with his active base-running play. Lee quickly rushed to second base when the second batter, Thairo Estrada, grounded out to shortstop, drawing an error from Seattle shortstop Ryan Bliss. It was a play that turned a double-play crisis into an opportunity to reach first and second base with no outs. He then hit home when the third batter, LaMonte Wade Jr., made a timely hit.

Lee, who struck out on a ground ball to first base in the second inning and a missed swing in the fourth, ended his first exhibition game appearance after being replaced by Tyler Fitzgerald in the top of the fifth inning when the team was down 5-9. “I am personally satisfied with the results. Kirby is a great pitcher. After I got two strikes, I just focused on hitting the ball,” said Lee in a local interview after the game ended with a score of 10-10. “MLB pitchers’ fastballs are distinctively different from Korean pitchers. But the biggest difference comes from the speed of the breaking ball,” he said, expressing his intention to quickly adapt. “He got off to a late start due to a minor injury, but it’s good that he scored a hit and a run in the first game. He is quick, so no one knows what kind of confusion he will cause in the opposing defense,” San Francisco coach Bob Melvin said.

Lee’s helmet came off several times on this day while swinging and while playing on base because helmets used in MLB did not fit well with Asian players. Kim Ha-seong of the San Diego Padres experienced a similar situation last year. Lee ordered a custom helmet and is expected to receive his new helmet within two days at the earliest.

Heon-Jae Lee uni@donga.com