Shi Han-bu is the centerpiece of the Lotte Giants’ surge. Ahn Kwon-soo, 30, is a third-generation Korean-American outfielder.
Ahn was the leadoff hitter for Lotte from the opening day and fulfilled the duties of a charge leader, batting .318 (27-for-85) with two home runs, 12 RBIs, and four doubles in April alone.
Unfortunately, he couldn’t keep up the momentum in May. Injuries struck. He was dealing with elbow pain.
LOTTE manager Larry Sutton said, “I think the reason why Ahn Kwon-soo’s pace dropped compared to the first month is because of elbow pain. “He has some elbow discomfort, so he may not be able to hit as hard,” said Sutton, “but he’s playing Gold Glove-level defense and is actively running the bases. He makes his presence felt at the plate as well.”
The manager was right. In the 27th game, Ahn went 2-for-4 with a double, a home run, two RBIs, and a run scored, starting in the ninth spot in left field.
He also made his presence felt offensively, especially in the top of the seventh inning. With runners on first and second and a 2-0 lead after Yoo Kang-nam’s RBI double, Ahn lined a fastball from Kim Jae-woong that was just outside the zone and grazed the shortstop’s side. It was a hit that broke through Kiwoom’s advancing defense.
“It was a technical hit,” said SBS Sports commentator Lee Soon-cheol.
On defense, the defense showed a hawkish show. Two batters later in the inning, Lee Won-seok made a picture-perfect sliding catch to end the inning. In the bottom of the sixth inning, he snatched up a foul ball from Lee Jeong-hoo with his body to lighten the load on starter Charlie Barnes’ shoulders.
After the game, Ahn Kwon-soo said, “Even though my elbow is not good, I kept thinking, ‘What can I do?’ Recently, I have been simplifying my swing and paying attention to the team’s batting and defense.”
Ahn is also one of the team’s best cheerleaders. “I have to do the best I can when the team needs me more than my personal performance and results,” he said. “In the rest of the season, I will play the baseball the team needs no matter what.”
Ahn Kwon-soo is a one-year old. A third-generation Korean-American born and raised in Japan, Ahn was selected by Doosan with the 99th overall pick in the 10th round of the 2020 KBO Draft. After performing adequately as a backup outfielder for Doosan, he left the team after last season.
Under Korean military service law, he would have to enter active duty after 2023 to continue playing in South Korea. With only one year available, 메이저놀이터 Doosan removed Ahn from the disabled list after reaching an agreement. Lotte invited him to join the team for one year, and he has exceeded their expectations, solving their leadoff and center field problems.
However, the one-year deadline hasn’t changed. If the military service issue is not resolved, this will be the last year that Ahn Kwon-soo will play in the KBO. His only hope is to make the Korean National Team for the Hangzhou Asian Games in September and win a gold medal to qualify as an Arts and Sports Personnel.
In what could be his last season, Ahn continues to hit and run despite the pain in his elbow.