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Landers slugger Choi Jeong becomes new KBO career home run leader

April 24, 2024 - 20:38 By Yonhap
Choi Jeong of the SSG Landers hits a solo home run against the Kia Tigers during a Korea Baseball Organization regular-season game at Incheon SSG Landers Field in Incheon, west of Seoul. (Yonhap)

SSG Landers slugger Choi Jeong is the new home run king in South Korean baseball.

Choi launched his 468th home run off Lotte Giants starter Lee In-bok at Sajik Baseball Stadium in the southeastern city of Busan on Wednesday, passing former Samsung Lions star Lee Seung-yuop on the all-time home run list in the Korea Baseball Organization.

With the Landers trailing 7-4, Choi came up with two outs in the top of the fifth inning for his third plate appearance. Choi drilled a first-pitch slider and sent it into left-field seats for the record-breaking homer.

The ball left Choi's bat at 145 kilometers per hour and traveled 110 meters.

After Choi rounded the bases, Landers manager Lee Sung-yong greeted the veteran with a hug and a wreath of flowers. The game was put on hold momentarily for a quick on-field ceremony for Choi, who was joined by Landers captain Choo Shin-soo. Giants captain Jeon Jun-woo also offered his congratulations on Choi's accomplishment.

This was Choi's first game since last Wednesday, when he suffered a bruised rib after taking an errant pitch to his left side. Choi was initially diagnosed with a hairline fracture in his left rib, but further tests Thursday revealed only a bruise, which still forced Choi to miss the next four games.

Choi was back in the starting lineup Tuesday. But that game was called off before the start of the top fifth due to heavy downpours. Choi had doubled in the first inning.

Choi suffered that rib injury a day after drawing level with Lee with a solo home run.

This was Choi's 2,185th game. Lee retired in 2017 after hitting a couple of homers in his final, 1,906th game.

With 10 home runs this season, Choi is halfway to becoming the first KBO hitter to smack at least 20 home runs in nine consecutive years.

Choi, 37, has spent his entire 20-year career with the Landers franchise. He made his KBO debut in 2005 as an 18-year-old, when the team was called the SK Wyverns under a different corporate owner.

Choi followed that up with 12 home runs in 2006 and has reached double digits in homers in every season since then. That 19-year run is the longest such streak in KBO history.

Lee, now manager of the Doosan Bears, had been the KBO's home run king since belting his 352nd home run on June 20, 2013.