2 Koreans show they can play gamesStatistically, what are the chances of my winning an ATP tennis tournament? Statistically, what are the chances of my standing in a batting box at a Major League Baseball game with the prospect of becoming Rookie of the Year and being expected to clobber at least 30 balls out of the park and bat in 100 runs? Surprisingly, the answer to both is: pretty good.
I can do all of these things with just a flick of my thumb. On my Sony PlayStation console, I am a baseball all-star and the world’s top-ranked tennis player all at once. But that’s surely the closest I’ll ever get to achieving those sort of accolades. Yet two people having the same color hair as me, speaking the same language and loving kimchi have done the above or are scheduled to achieve those remarkable feats.
On Monday, Lee Hyung-taik, 27, won a men’s doubles title at the Siebel Open in San Jose, California. It was the Korean’s first-ever doubles crown and the first doubles trophy at an ATP tour event that his country has ever seen. Together with Vladimir Voltchkov of Belarus, the pair defeated Paul Goldstein and Robert Kendrick of the United States, 7-5, 4-6, 6-3, to win the $16,500 purse. In the first round, Lee and Voltchkov outlasted the top-seeded American brothers Bob and Mike Bryan in three close sets.
Thanks to this win, the victors are now ranked 17th on the ATP’s doubles chart, while Lee’s singles ranking, helped by a first-round win over Taylor Dent of the United States, inched up four spots to 62. The Korean is looking to break his highest-ever ranking of 60, which he achieved in August 2001.
Earlier this year I wrote that 60 was the highest he’d go, but I’ll be the first to admit that I was wrong. As for doubles, if he starts to build a long, close relationship with Voltchkov, and they work on their teamwork, we may see them hugging trophies more often. Having to cover only half of the court should help Lee pile up the computer points.
Now to the other Korean wonder, Chicago Cubs’ Choi Hee-seop. It is just amazing how much this kid has been in the spotlight. By just looking at his stats you might never figure all where all the hoopla comes from that seems to increase each day.
In the 24 games since his first at-bat in the majors last September, Choi posted a .180 batting average with only two home runs. Surely not head-turning statistics. But with a 195 centimeter (6 feet, 5-inch) frame and 110 kilograms (240 pounds) of flesh, this first base prospect has become a premium commodity.
Despite a hand injury that limited his playing time in 2001, Choi had 56 round-trippers and 210 RBI over three seasons, which included 288 minor league games. A slugger, he strikes out quite a bit, but he is not the only one ― and his baserunning and defensive skills are a cut above his peers. One other thing people like about him: Although he bats lefthanded, he doesn’t back down against southpaws.
Last year his .301 batting average against lefties for the Iowa Cubs, Chicago’s triple AAA farm team, was higher than his overall average of .287. With so much potential, Choi is a strong buy even in this bear market. Statistically, of course.
by Brian Lee
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