‘The best third baseman of all time’ Choi Jeong, can he take off the domestic tag?

The Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) selected 40 legends last year to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the KBO League. Fan votes and expert votes were combined to select the best retired players. Active players were excluded from the selection of 40 Legends, but if they retire later, there are some who will of course be listed in the ‘Legend’ ranks. One of them is Choi Jeong, the third baseman of SSG Landers.

Choi Jeong-eun graduated from Yushin High School and joined SSG’s predecessor SK Wyverns in 2005 as the first nomination. That year, he debuted in the first team and he only hit one home run in 45 games, but the following year, in 2006, he reached double-digit home runs for the first time with 12 home runs. Since then, he has not missed a single season up to last year’s 26th home run, achieving double-digit home runs for 17 consecutive years.  스포츠토토

Choi Jeong-eun’s 429 home runs is the highest among active players and the second highest in history. He is chasing the 467 home run of Lee Seung-yeop, coach of the Doosan Bears, who has the most home runs of all time, with a difference of 38. It is expected to break the record set by head coach Lee Seung-yeop by the end of this season at the earliest or the early and middle of next year at the latest. There are optimism that Choi Jeong-eun will be able to achieve 500 home runs for the first time in KBO league history. 

Choi Jeong-eun, who won the third baseman Golden Glove 8 times until last year, is a ‘one team man’ who has only worked for SK and SSG. He qualified for free agency twice and signed a contract to remain with SK, totaling a whopping 19.2 billion won.

Choi Jeong, who is regarded as the best third baseman in KBO League history, both retired and active players, but strangely, he did not use his strength in international competitions. He was selected for the 2009 World Baseball Classic (WBC), the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games, and the 2013 WBC national team, but did not show any significant performance. 

Choi’s most recent promotion to the national team was in the 2019 Premier XII. However, he was pushed by Heo Gyeong-min (Doosan) and failed to occupy the starting third baseman. Choi Jeong-eun, who only appeared in 9 at-bats throughout the tournament, was disappointing with an OPS (on-base percentage + slugging percentage) of 0.583 with no home run or RBI, 2 hits in 8 at-bats, and a batting average of 0.250. Korea lost all 2 games to Japan and stayed in the runner-up.

Choi Jeong-eun is never a weak player in big games. In Game 6 of the Korean Series, where SK faced Doosan in 2018, Choi Jung-eun hit a decisive solo home run from Lindblom to make it 4-4 after two outs in the top of the 9th inning, bringing the game back to square one. SK defeated Doosan 5-4 after 13 overtimes and lifted the 4th Korean Series championship trophy with 4 wins and 2 losses. 

Last year, in the Korean Series where SSG faced Kiwoom Heroes, Choi Jeong-eun took the lead in winning the first championship after taking over the SK club by swinging a bat with a batting average of 0.476, 2 homers, 9 RBIs, and an OPS of 1.403. The series MVP went to Kim Kang-min, but even if Choi Jeong won the award, it wasn’t too strange. 

Choi Jeong-eun was listed in the final 30 entries for the 2023 WBC national team, which will be held in March. It should be noted that among the eight national team infielders, Choi Jeong is the only professional third baseman. If Choi Jeong is sluggish, starting shortstop Kim Ha-seong (San Diego) will be converted to third baseman, and the national team’s infield composition will change overall. That’s why Choi Jeong’s performance is very important. Attention is focusing on whether Choi Jeong will be able to live up to the name of the best third baseman ever by removing the ‘domestic’ tag from the WBC.

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