2 approaches, 1 goal: 30 homers

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2 approaches, 1 goal: 30 homers

OKINAWA - Lee Seung-yeop of the Yomiuri Giants and Kim Tae-kyun of the Chiba Lotte Marines are both entering preseason training with one goal: to hit 30 home runs in the upcoming Nippon Professional Baseball season.

Lee and Kim yesterday began spring training in Miyazaki and Okinawa, respectively. Both players have the distinction of being the top batters at a World Baseball Classic: In 2006, Lee hit five home runs and drove in 10 runs. At the 2009 tourney, Kim hit three home runs and drove in 11 runs.

Lee is looking to revive his career with the Giants after an injury-plagued season, and Kim wants to make a splash in his rookie season in the NPB.

Kim wants to make an immediate impact with the Marines.

“I want to secure the clean-up spot in the batting order,” said Kim. “And I want to do it playing my style of baseball.”

Kim reached the 30-home run plateau twice in his Korea Baseball Organization career, in 2003 and 2008, and Marines officials are hoping he’ll do it again - or better - in the upcoming season. The top slugger on the club last season was Saburo Ohmura, who hit 24 home runs. Lee, who played with the Marines from 2004 to 2005, is the last player to hit more than 30 home runs in a season for the team.

“I want to succeed using my own style. I don’t have any plan to change my batting stance,” stated Kim. “If I have to, I will ask Lee for help during the season. I think it would be great if I can hit a home run at the Tokyo Dome with Lee watching.”

Unlike Kim, Lee plans to tweak his playing style in order to rejuvenate his career. Having smashed more than 30 home runs in seven consecutive seasons with the Samsung Lions from 1997 to 2003, Lee is no stranger to the power game.

In 2004, he struggled in his first NPB season with the Marines, but he banged out 30 home runs the following year. Lee went on to sign with the Yomiuri Giants in 2006, and hit 41 home runs in his first season with the team. In spite of a thumb injury, Lee hit 30 home runs in 2007. However, he has struggled in the past two seasons, scoring eight home runs in 2008, and 16 last season.

“After the thumb surgery, I was tentative and it ruined my swing,” explained Lee. “My center of gravity shifted towards the pitcher and I put a lot of stress on my hands.” His confidence and judgment at the plate suffered as well.

Now Lee is focused on changing his batting stance and ridding himself of the bad habits he formed over the past two seasons.

“I want to do better than them,” Lee said of Kim and Lee Bum-ho of the Softbank Hawks. “But I also hope they produce better numbers than I do, so they can show that Korean baseball doesn’t lag behind the NPB.”

By Kim Seek [jason@joongang.co.kr]
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