Veteran slugger wants to get home run record out of way early in new KBO season

Choi Jeong of the SSG Landers, left, speaks during the Korea Baseball Organization media day in Seoul, March 22. Yonhap

Choi Jeong of the SSG Landers, left, speaks during the Korea Baseball Organization media day in Seoul, March 22. Yonhap

SSG Landers slugger Choi Jeong is on the verge of becoming the all-time home run king in Korean baseball history, as he enters his 20th season in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO).

It only seems a matter of time before Choi, with 458 career home runs, surpasses Lee Seung-yuop’s record of 467. And Choi said Friday he would like to get it out of the way as early as possible.

“Once I do get to that mark, I think I will feel relieved,” Choi said during the annual media day in Seoul on Friday, the eve of Opening Day in the KBO. “Chasing that record will put some pressure on me throughout the season, and so I’d like to get it done quickly.”

Choi has reached double figures in home runs every year since his sophomore campaign in 2006 and has launched at least 20 in each of the past eight years. Even at 37, there’s no indication that Choi is about to slow down.

Lee spent eight years of his prime in Japan, and still finished his KBO career with 467. He and Choi are the only two hitters with more than 400 dingers, and Lee, who now manages the Doosan Bears in the KBO, could easily have had 600 home runs if he’d spent his entire career in Korea.

Lee, who had 159 home runs in Japan, is widely considered the greatest slugger in Korean baseball history, and Choi said that status won’t change even if he tops Lee’s home run total.

“What more can I say about him? He’s the greatest home run hitter in Korea,” Choi said. “It will be an honor if I can surpass him.”

SSG Landers' third baseman Choi Jeong is seen in this file photo provided by the SSG Landers, March 12. Yonhap

SSG Landers’ third baseman Choi Jeong is seen in this file photo provided by the SSG Landers, March 12. Yonhap

Choi has been a model of consistency throughout his career, and it’s something that Roh Si-hwan, an up-and-coming slugger for the Hanwha Eagles, wants to emulate.

“I respect him so much. He has been so consistent season in and season out,” said Roh, who led the KBO with 31 homers in 2023 at age 22. “Obviously, you have to be a good hitter but taking care of your body is really important, too. You have to stay healthy to put up those numbers. I want to be like that.” (Yonhap)

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