Kiwoom, looking to win the championship – National Team Chimtong “The void after Lee Jung-hoo, one person can never fill it”
“(Lee) Jung-hoo’s empty spot can never be filled by one person”
The loss of the ‘genius hitter’ has left the Kiwoom Heroes and the national team devastated. Lee Jung-hoo (25, Kiwoom Heroes), the KBO’s “signature hitter,” was playing defense in center field in the bottom of the eighth inning against the visiting Lotte Giants on April 22 at Sajik Stadium when he injured his left ankle while catching Kim Min-seok’s fly ball to center field.
The pain was so intense that Lee sent an ‘SOS’ to the bench and was eventually replaced by Lim Byung-wook. This was the last time Lee would be seen on the field. Kiwoom snapped an eight-game losing streak with a 5-3 victory in the top of the seventh inning, thanks to Lee’s wedge hit, but it was a sleepless night for their leadoff hitter. Lee went 3-for-3 with a home run, one RBI, one run scored, and one walk in the game, showing off his peak hitting form as well as his 100 percent on-base percentage.스포츠토토
The next day, on the 23rd, Kiwoom coach Hong Won-ki expressed his concern over Lee’s sudden injury, saying, “Actually, Lee is not a player who is shy about being sick, so it’s a concern that he expressed it so much.” His teammates’ reactions were similar. From Kim Hye-sung saying, “I don’t feel good because (Lee’s) injury doesn’t seem to be light,” to Song Sung-moon saying, “One person can never fill the void left by Lee Jung-hoo,” to Lee Jung-hoo’s teammates saying, “We need to gather strength and play persistently.” The importance of Lee Jung-hoo to the team is evident.
Their fears were realized. On the 24th, Lee underwent an MRI and X-ray examination at CM Hospital and Sejong Sports Orthopedics, and was diagnosed with an extensor ligament injury in his left ankle. An extensor ligament injury means that the membrane that wraps around the ankle tendon is damaged. In order to repair it, he would need to undergo suture surgery.
It is unlikely that he will be able to avoid going on the operating table. Lee is scheduled to undergo a further examination at Sejong Sports Orthopedics on the 25th. The surgery will be scheduled after the further examination. “The rehabilitation period after surgery is expected to take about three months and may change depending on the speed of recovery,” said Kiwoom. It’s a season-ending blow.
Kiwoom has been preparing for this year to be their last season with Lee Jung-hoo. After an unexpectedly strong showing last year, which resulted in a runner-up finish in the Korean Series, Kiwoom aggressively reinforced its roster in the free agent market, signing “human victory set-up man” Won Jong-hyun for a total of 2.5 billion won over four years and signing Lee Hyung-jong as a future free agent for a total of 2 billion won over four years to challenge for its first Korean Series title.
However, contrary to expectations, Kiwoom’s pace has been slow and they are currently ranked eighth. Playing at the Gocheok Sky Dome, the only dome stadium in Korea, with few rainouts, Kiwoom is expected to be at a disadvantage in the second half of the season as they have played 89 games, the most among the 10 clubs. To make matters worse, Kiwoom will now have to play the rest of the season on a hiatus.
It’s not just Kiwoom, but the Korean baseball team that will be competing at the 2022 Hangzhou Asian Games. The team is composed of players under the age of 25 and in their fourth year of professional baseball.
Of course, the goal remains the same. A gold medal. Given his wealth of international experience and “post-KBO league” hitting prowess that has attracted interest from major league clubs, Jung-hoo should be the centerpiece of the team, but it’s unclear if there’s anyone else who can fill the void. Song Sung-moon’s words, “Jung-hoo’s place can never be filled by a single person,” don’t sound like a ‘no man’s land’ to the national team.
It could also cast a cloud over his future attempts to reach the major leagues. Lee Jung-hoo is a hitter who has already accomplished what he can at the domestic level. After a stellar debut in 2017, when he hit .324 with two home runs, 47 RBIs, and 12 stolen bases to win the Rookie of the Year award, Lee hit .360 in 2021 to win his first batting title, and last year he hit .349 with 23 home runs and 113 RBIs. 349 with 23 home runs and 113 RBIs to win the batting title for the second straight year and his first regular season MVP award.
Lee, who has already signed an agreement with Kiwoom to play in the major leagues after this season, rebounded from an early-season slump to hit .319 with six home runs and 45 RBIs this year, but the suddenness of his injury has left him wondering if he’ll get the kind of treatment he wants from major league clubs.