Samsung Lions’ slugging first baseman Lee Seung-yeop is just three short of his 500th career home run. / Yonhap
By Jung Min-ho
With the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) enjoying the height of its popularity with record ticket sales, the outlook is only expected to improve amid a flurry of new records.
Samsung Lions slugger Lee Seung-yeop is now gearing up for two historical records. As of Monday, the 35-year-old is just three short of his 500th career home run with 159 from the Japan league and 338 from the domestic one. No one in the KBO’s 30-year-history has ever achieved that milestone. Even in Major League Baseball in the United States, only 25 players have attained the landmark figure in its 136-year-history, including the New York Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez. With 50 RBI in 63 games this season, Lee is now about to reach his 1,000 career RBIs. Currently on 999, he is just a single RBI from being the eighth player to reach four figures in the KBO.
Hanhwa Eagles pitcher Ryu Hyun-jin celebrated Sunday reaching 100 strikeouts in only 12 games, the shortest time in the local league, in the match against the Doosan Bears, despite a bitter 8-7 loss. He beat his own previous record of 100 strikeouts in 13 games, set in 2006. Ranked top in strikeouts with 101 and sixth in ERA on 3.12 this season, the 25-year-old is trying to lift his club from last place.
Lions closer Oh Seung-hwan is also on the verge of a new mark for saves. He is a one behind tying retired LG Twins pitcher Kim Yong-soo’s 227. After his first save against the Twins on April 27, 2005, the 29-year-old earned 100 saves by 2007 and reached 200 last year in a mere 334 games, with the chance of recording 300 saves for the first time in KBO history.
The number of visitors this season is also setting new records. After reaching the million attendance mark in just 65 games on April 29, beating the previous 79 games it took to reach that level in 1995, the KBO is now looking to reach 4 million at the fastest pace ever. With 3,952,118 spectators so far, the original goal of drawing 7 million to ballparks this season seems highly possible. At the current pace 8 million could even be attainable as just 251 games out of the 532 have been played.