It was mid-February last year. Lee Ju-hyung (23) of Kiwoom was on his last leave from military service as a member of LG at the time, and had an interview at LG Champions Park in Icheon. After being discharged from the military, he talked about building his body, going on a business trip to the Futures League and going to the first-team stage.
A year later, I met Lee Ju-hyung at the Kiwoom Spring Camp set up at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick in Scottsdale, Arizona, USA on the 2nd (Korea time).
There have been many changes in Lee Ju-hyung over the past year. Now he is a Kiwoom player, not an LG player. He was a promising second-tier player in LG, but now he has become the main player of Kiwoom.
Lee Ju-hyung moved his team in July last year due to a large trade between Kiwoom and LG. LG, which needed a starting pitcher to win, took Kiwoom pitcher Choi Won-tae, and sent Lee Ju-hyung, rookie pitcher Kim Dong-kyu and a first-round pick of the 2024 draft to Kiwoom.
Lee Ju-hyung’s baseball career became a turning point. Lee, who had few chances to play in the first division in the LG Twins, which has a strong base of players, received many opportunities to play in the game and burst his batting talent when he was traded to Kiwoom. Lee said, “I got about 70 points. I was lucky enough to score 60 points among them.”
This is Lee’s first overseas camp since his debut. “I came to the starting line in mid-January and built up my body well. I had a hard time getting over the nap for the first three to four days because I was jet lagged,” Lee said with a smile. “The weather is nice and I like the environment where I can only play baseball. I think the environment is similar to Icheon where people can do night training and play baseball only.”
On dramatic changes over the past year, Lee said, “There were a lot of disappointments, and I was able to keep playing because of the results. I think I played baseball that I could. In (LG), there were a lot of things that I couldn’t do because I shrank every time I joined the first division, but in (raising), I showed better performance than before as I got good results. However, I’m sorry that we didn’t show much in base and defense due to injury.”
“Seeing that the injury came despite the small number of business trips (51 games in Kiwoom), I have to play a full-time season of 144 games this year, and I thought about how to manage the injury. I think it was a season of great significance because the direction and goal of what to do based on experience were clearly set,” he said looking back on last year.
Lee’s attitude in preparing for the event stood out, considering what he lacked before what he liked. Perhaps that’s why Lee Ju-hyung gave his own score last year, saying, “I think it’s about 70 points. In addition, I think I was lucky with 60 points, and I think I showed 10 points because I did well in my preparation. A lack of 30 points is a regret of taking care of my body.”
Lee Ju-hyung was nominated by LG in the second round (13th overall) in the 2020 Rookie Draft, and his talent was recognized. He joined LG and mainly played in the second division, and since he was a rookie, he has recorded a batting average of .300 in the Futures League.
He had a batting average of .356 (31 hits in 87 at-bats) in 2020 and an OPS of 1.099. He had a batting average of .331 (43 hits in 130 at-bats) in 2021 and made his debut in the OPS 970. He recorded a batting average of .125 in 14 games and joined the military as an active player in August of that year.
When he was given a limited chance to join the top-tier Korean Professional Baseball League, he failed to display his capability. Lee debuted in the main league during the 2021 season and recorded a batting average of 12.5 percent in 14 games, before joining the military as an active player in August that year. Lee, who was discharged from the military in February last year, had a batting average of 19.4 percent and two RBIs in 32 games overall in the Korean pro league.
Lee Ju-hyung has played in every game as a starting lineup for Kiwoom since the trade. Lee Ju-hyung’s bat was fierce as he was guaranteed a stable chance to play in one game, not a pinch hitter.
He played in 51 games in Kiwoom’s uniform, recording a batting average of 336 home runs, 34 RBIs, 30 runs, and three steals with OPS.911. 꽁머니사이트
Lee Ju-hyung, who has established himself as a key outfielder, saw his annual salary increase by 100 percent. He signed a 66 million won contract this year, up from 33 million won last year. It was the highest annual salary increase rate among the Kiwoom players.