‘King Kang School’ completion to Manroopo, Lotte’s 15-year veteran

The team has undergone a lot of changes, and he has traveled to the United States for personal training. The team has started the exhibition games on a high note, but Jeong Hoon (37, Lotte Giants) is preparing for the season with a heavy heart.

“I’ve been playing here for a long time,” Jung-hoon joked after the team’s 2-1 home win over SSG Landers in the 2024 Shinhan SOL Bank KBO League exhibition game at Sajik Baseball Stadium in Busan on Tuesday, when asked if the team’s prospects for the season are brighter after winning two straight exhibition games.

Jung-hoon started the game as the team’s No. 6 hitter and first baseman, going 1-for-5 with one home run, four RBIs and two runs scored. In this game, Lotte used players in the lineup who hadn’t seen much action since the Okinawa spring training games, and Jeong-hoon was no different.

It was a quiet first four at-bats. After singling to right field in his first at-bat with two outs in the bottom of the first inning, Jeong was thrown out at shortstop in the third. In the fifth inning, after a grounder to the pitcher with the bases loaded and the runner at third out, he came around to score on Hwang Sung-bin’s RBI double in the ninth. In the sixth, he grounded out to shortstop.

But in his final at-bat, Jung-hoon’s bat exploded. In the bottom of the eighth, Lotte loaded the bases with no outs after back-to-back singles by Oh Sun-jin and Go Seung-min and a walk by Yoo Kang-nam. From there, Noh Jin-hyeok hit a single over the left-field fence to score a run. Lee Hak-joo struck out, but Jeong-hoon took advantage of a high fastball from SSG pitcher Lee Rin for a grand slam over the left-center field fence. The home run pushed Lotte’s lead to 13-5 and put the game out of reach.

After the game, Lotte manager Kim Tae-hyung (57) praised the performance of the veteran players, saying, “Jeon Jun-woo’s home run (in the first inning) gave us the early momentum, and Jeong Hoon’s perfect game was a highlight.”

“I hadn’t played in a game in a long time, so I didn’t feel very good in the previous at-bats, so in the end, the coach gave me advice before I went in and said, ‘Keep your mind straight and hit it, just go in and hit it,’ so it was easy for me to go in and hit it,” Jung-hoon said.

After hitting the home run, Jeong-hoon was caught on camera coming into the dugout and exchanging a few words with Kim. “If you don’t hit it in your first at-bat, it’s not easy to hit it in the fifth, but you did,” he said, adding, “I asked him to give me another (high five), but he didn’t like that. I told him to go, but he kept hitting until the end,” he laughed.

Jung-hoon was once considered a player capable of a nearly triple-digit batting average and double-digit home runs. However, he hit just .245 in 2022, the first year of his three-year free-agent contract, and then hit .214 in the first half of last year before returning only in late July due to a side injury. He showed promise in the second half, batting .296 with six home runs.

Afterward, Jung-hoon, along with close senior Lee Dae-ho (42) and teammate Han Dong-hee (25), visited former major leaguer Kang Jeong-ho (37), a former teammate of Jung-hoon’s from the Hyundai Unicorns, to work on his hitting. “I learned some good things from him, but the 10 days was a great motivation for me as an older player. It was a time to grow my mind rather than my skills.”

Despite his efforts, Jung didn’t get many opportunities in camp scrimmages. The first base spot went to junior Na Seung-yup (23). However, Jung-hoon was not discouraged and used his loud voice in the dugout to encourage the younger players. At the 메이저사이트 end of the camp, Kim said, “Jeong-hoon, (Kim) Min-sung, and (Oh) Sun-yeon used to play later in the game, but they try to keep the team atmosphere alive. The three players (did a good job),” and expressed his gratitude.

“There were times when I couldn’t play like this even in my early 30s, but then I showed a little bit of anger, and that was passed on to the team,” Jung Hoon said, adding, “When I got older and saw my friends in their early 30s doing that, I thought it was too bad. “I thought it was too bad when I saw my friends in their early thirties doing it,” he confessed, “I know how they feel, but I didn’t think it was helpful to show my frustration.” He added, “Because I’m a senior, if I don’t talk, the juniors will notice, so I tried to smile and do it, but the coach took a good look at me.

This year, Lotte hired manager Kim Tae-hyung, who has 645 career wins, and brought in veteran players Kim Min-sung, Oh Sun-jin, and Jin Hae-soo to turn things around. Jung-hoon, who will be entering his 15th year with Lotte after joining the team in 2010, also expressed satisfaction, saying, “I think the atmosphere is the most synergistic right now.” “The coach is silent, but he has charisma, so the players are moving well on their own,” he said.

At the same time, he kept his cool. “I’ve been playing here (Lotte) for a long time…” he laughed when asked about his second consecutive exhibition win. It seems that he was mindful of the fact that Lotte hasn’t been able to do the same in the regular season despite being the top team in the most exhibition games. Still, he said, “I hope you can see the atmosphere regardless of the results. I hope you can see what we’re trying to do, that we’re playing hard.”


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