Starting a new baseball life as Doosan Bears manager in the 2023 season, Lee Seung-yeop recorded his 56th home run in the season, a new Asian record at the time, in 2003, 20 years ago. Does anyone remember who was the 2nd hitter of the Samsung Lions who repeatedly got on base in front of Lee Seung-yeop, the 3rd hitter that year? It’s straight up high ground.
Ko Ji-haeng, a 3rd-generation first Korean, played for the Hanshin Tigers and joined the Hanwha Eagles in 2003 at the age of 25. At the end of April of that year, he transferred to Samsung through a trade. Ko Ji-haeng, who played in 92 games as the starting second baseman, recorded a batting average of .281, 4 homers, and 27 RBIs. Especially in the second half, he created chances in front of Lee Seung-yeop with a batting average of over 30%. Go Ji-haeng, who currently runs a baseball school in Tokyo, Japan, looked back on those days and said, “I only showed a very cheeky attitude. I want to apologize to many people.”
It was a KBO league that he entered through a relationship, but as a young man, he always complained about his unfamiliar environment. Ko Ji-haeng, who turned 45 after 20 years, reflected on the time and said, “The people around me helped me a lot, and now that I think about it, I can only say thank you.” In particular, the consideration received from Lee Seung-yeop was special for Go Ji-haeng.
“Senior Lee Seung-yeop always told me in detail what kind of ball the pitcher would throw in the standby at-bat. 스포츠토토
It is said that Lee Seung-yeop helped Ko Ji-haeng take orders at the restaurant for language difficulties, and took Ko Ji-haeng to the PC room during an away game. “When I asked my senior (Lee Seung-yeop), ‘You’re a superstar, is it okay to walk down the street like a normal person?’
Ko Ji-haeng played as a starter in the 2003 season, but lost his position in 2004 when Park Jong-ho came as a free agent from the Hyundai Unicorns. The coaching staff highly evaluated Ko Ji-haeng’s hitting and suggested that he change to first baseman. That year, Lee Seung-yeop made his way to Japan, and Ma Hae-young also moved to the KIA Tigers as a free agent. However, Go Ji-haeng refused. “Coach Ryu (Chongil) said he would give me a fungo, but I didn’t get it. He gave me a chance, but I was inexperienced and didn’t like receiving a fungo like a rookie. I remember the chubby player with number 65 at that time”. That new player was Park Seok-min (now NC), who later became Samsung’s main infielder.
Ko Ji-haeng went back to Hanwha in 2005 and ranked first in the batting average in the Futures League, but ended his career as a player and returned to Japan. Ko Ji-haeng is currently teaching baseball to boys. He said, “I think of myself as a practice partner, not a coach, so I am with the children.”
Ko Ji-haeng is sharing the love he received in the KBO League when he was young with future professional baseball players. “After retirement, I never had a chance to go to Korea, but this year, with senior Lee Seung-yeop becoming the manager, I’m going to send my greetings and apologies to many people,” he foreshadowed his trip to Korea. <Author of Muroi Masaya Japanese Guidebook for Korean Professional Baseball>