I even gained confidence… Lee Jung-hoo, who has grown to the next level with WBC

It has been more than a week since the World Baseball Classic (WBC) ended and the national team disbanded. After returning to their respective teams, the players calmly prepared for the new season. Kim Hye-seong (Kiwoom Heroes) showed a strong will to compete in the game the next day after her return.

And another one, Lee Jung-hoo (Kiwoom), also didn’t have much time to rest. He did not start the game right away, but after going to work at Gocheok Sky Dome on the 15th, he was named in the starting lineup as the third hitter and designated hitter in the exhibition game against the KIA Tigers on the 16th.

Confidence changed drastically, Lee Jung-hoo’s swing became more scary.

In 5 games from the KIA game on the 16th to the NC Dinos game on the 21st, he recorded 5 hits in 9 at-bats, a batting average of 0.556, 5 RBIs, 1 steal, and 4 points. Even considering the small sample, the OPS (on-base percentage + slugging percentage) reaches a whopping 1.969. I wondered if he was a player who had stayed abroad for a long time.

From the first at-bat against KIA, Lee Jung-hoo pulled opponent starter Yoon Young-chul’s first pitch and made a hit. ‘Rookie’ Yoon Young-chul showed a moment of embarrassment. He couldn’t help but be more surprised that it was a ‘fixed hit’ rather than a missed hit.

This was just the beginning. On the 18th and 19th, he hit a home run for two days in a row in two consecutive away matches against the Hanwha Eagles held at Daejeon Hanwha Life Eagles Park. On the 18th, in his first at-bat at the beginning of the first inning, he drew a solo arch over the right fence, aiming for opponent starter Moon Dong-ju’s 4-pitch fastball. He did not miss the ball count (3-0), which was absolutely advantageous to the batter.

The next day, Lee Jung-hoo’s armed demonstration continued. At the beginning of the 3rd inning, when the team was trailing 0-1, 2 out 2nd base pulled opponent starter Felix Pena’s 2-pitch changeup and fired a turnaround two-run four. He even scored a double in the top of the 4th inning. Kiwoom, who strengthened Lee Jung-hoo’s two long hits, won a 12-4 victory over Hanwha that day.

In the two-game series against NC, he retired to the bench after only digesting the second at-bat for two days in a row. He is adjusting his condition by focusing on the opening of the regular season. Nonetheless, he made a strong impression during his six games. It seems clear that it has been upgraded a notch from what we saw last year.

Motivational Season, Aiming for MVP for 2 Consecutive Years?

While the national team was sluggish in the WBC, Lee Jung-hoo alone showed his presence. He recorded a batting average of 0.429 with 5 RBIs and an OPS of 1.071 with 6 hits in 14 at-bats in 4 games in the first round of the finals, and was the only multi-hit player in the team (2 hits in 4 at bats and 1 RBI) in the match against Japan on the 10th안전놀이터. Even in Japan, where they won by 9 points, they paid attention to Lee Jung-hoo.

In fact, Lee Jung-hoo started preparing for the 2023 season early. On January 9th, after departing for Los Angeles, USA through Incheon International Airport, he trained in the US, and about two weeks later, the news that he had signed a contract with agent Scott Boras was reported. He embarked on a challenge to advance to the big leagues in earnest.

Thanks to his contract and training, Lee Jung-hoo achieved the desired results in the WBC. Without his own efforts and a series of preparations, it would have been difficult for him to maintain his rise from the WBC to the exhibition match. His swing, which led to his good results, also came from his ‘grounded’ confidence.

Now focus on the new season. At the end of this season, it is likely to head to the Major League (MLB) with a posting system (private competitive bidding), and a season that is more important than ever is ahead, not only for the player himself but also for his team Kiwoom. It is Lee Jung-hoo and Kiwoom’s wish to resolve the regret of last year’s runner-up in the Korean Series.

Attention is also focused on the regular season MVP challenge for two consecutive years. The most recent player to win MVP for two consecutive years in the KBO League is Park Byung-ho (then Nexen Heroes, 2012-2013). Even if we go back in time, there are not too many such as Lee Seung-yeop (Samsung Lions, 2001-2003), Jang Jong-hoon (Binggrae Eagles, 1991-1992), and Seon Dong-yeol (Haetae Tigers, 1989-1990).

The 2023 season is sure to motivate both players and teams. Will Lee Jung-hoo, who does not know ‘satisfaction’, exceed his limits once again? Lee Jung-hoo’s bat is already spinning fiercely.