Ninth-time lucky for perennial All-Star Lee

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Ninth-time lucky for perennial All-Star Lee

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LG Twins left fielder Lee Byung-kyu kisses his All-Star Game MVP trophy after being voted as “Mr. All-Star” following the Western League’s 5-4 10th-inning win at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul, Saturday. [Ilgan Sports]


For LG Twins left fielder Lee Byung-kyu, the KBO All-Star Game MVP Award was always something that seemed just out of reach.

He’s been close in his eight other All-Star Games, but maybe Lee just needed a classic situation to get a little bit of luck.

It was the bottom of the 10th with the score tied 4-4 and lights-out closer Oh Seung-hwan on the mound for the Eastern League. With two outs, Lee, playing in front of hometown fans in Seoul, immediately fell behind 0-2, and in what was his ninth KBO All-Star Game, at age 37, Lee just went for it, hoping for something.

It wasn’t grand, but it was pretty lucky. A bloop single right over the shortstop’s head scored Hanwha’s Lee Dae-soo from third base and earned the Twins’ left fielder his first All-Star MVP Award - and a 5-4 win.

“It wasn’t going to be easy because Oh Seung-hwan was pitching,” Lee told Ilgan Sports after the game. “I thought he would throw fastballs, but I was surprised because he was throwing changeups. After two strikes, I just decided to hit it and it turned out to be a lucky hit.”

But it wasn’t just luck that got him the award.

Lee did have two doubles and an RBI before his 10th-inning heroics at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul, Saturday, and that played a part in the decision to crown him just the second Twins player ever to earn MVP honors at the All-Star Game.

“I’ve been in so many All-Star Games, but I never felt greedy about the MVP,” Lee said. “But I felt that I wanted to play better today. That’s why I arrived early and practiced. I also had some energy after resting two days.

“I really wanted to show fans I can win the prize.”

The vote might have been closer if not for the way the game ended. Samsung Lions slugger Choi Hyung-woo had two hits, including a two-run home run and it was sure to be a close vote among the journalists in attendance.

But Lee, who has a reputation in the KBO as a hard-working and honest player, received 34 of 42 votes - compared to Choi’s three - and received a bit of vindication. He is, after all, the oldest player ever to win the award.

“I never thought I would be this fortunate playing baseball,” Lee said. “I want to say thank you to my young teammates who set up some good opportunities for me.”

In addition to the honor, Lee, a former Chunichi Dragons player in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball league, received a trophy and a K5 sedan from Kia Motors.

“I’m going to drive it,” Lee said when asked what his plans are for his prize.

“I have another car from Volkswagen, which sponsored me, but I’ve never had my own car, so I’m going to use it frequently,” Lee said.

With the All-Star festivities over, and the 30th anniversary of the KBO still in full swing, Lee says he hopes to take back some of the positive moments from the weekend back to his team, which has been in somewhat of a slump.

The Twins have lost 10 of their last 15 games.

“I think our team’s slump in the late first half of the season is my fault,” Lee said. “My batting didn’t help during our three-game sweep against Nexen last week. I want to try my best for the team in the second half. My ability will come through better in the second half.”

Lee said he hopes that with such a positive mood after the All-Star Game that much of that will carry over to his team for the remainder of the season.

“We haven’t had very many good moments recently and I just hope our team atmosphere will change through me,” Lee said.

“Since [the Twins] got the All-Star MVP for the first time in a long time, I think we’ll get some good news on the field as well. We have about 50 games left, and I think after playing about 30 games, we can talk about the postseason. For now, I want to focus on those 30 games and put the team in final four,” Lee said.

And maybe with a little luck he can.


By Joo Kyung-don, Yu Seon-ui [kjoo@joongang.co.kr]

한글 관련 기사 [중앙일보]
가장 빛난 별 이병규, 새차 몰고 집에 가다
올스타전 첫 승부치기 끝내기타
홈런 레이스에서는 박정권 우승

올스타전 MVP에 선정된 후 부상으로 받은 승용차 앞에 서 있는 LG 이병규. [임현동 기자]
프로야구 LG의 외야수 이병규(37·배번 9)가 ‘별 중의 별’로 빛났다.

이병규는 23일 서울 잠실구장에서 열린 2011 올스타전에서 웨스턴리그의 4번 타자로 출장해 4-4로 맞선 연장 10회 말 끝내기 안타를 터뜨렸다. 웨스턴리그(KIA·LG·넥센·한화)는 이스턴리그(SK·삼성·두산·롯데)에 5-4로 승리했다.

 기자단 투표에서 이병규는 총 42표 중 34표를 얻어 1997년 데뷔 후 처음으로 올스타전 MVP(최우수선수)에 선정됐다. 96년 김광림(쌍방울·35세4개월14일)을 넘어서는 역대 최고령(36세8개월28일)이자 LG 선수로는 97년 유지현에 이은 두 번째 올스타전 MVP다. 이병규는 부상으로 K5 승용차를 받았다.

 이날 경기는 9회까지 3-3으로 승부를 가리지 못해 사상 첫 연장 승부치기에 들어갔다. 주자를 무사 1, 2루에 놓고 시작한 10회 초 이스턴리그는 박현준(LG)에게서 박정권(SK)의 2루 땅볼로 1점을 얻는 데 그쳤다. 10회 말 웨스턴리그는 2사 후 정성훈(LG)의 중전 적시타로 4-4 동점을 만들었다. 이날 정규이닝에서 4타수 2안타·1타점을 기록한 이병규는 2사 1, 3루에서 오승환(삼성)으로부터 좌익수와 3루수, 유격수 사이에 떨어지는 행운의 안타를 날려 승부를 끝냈다.

 이병규는 일본에서 LG로 복귀한 2010년 타율 0.290, 9홈런·64타점에 그치며 기량이 전성기에 미치지 못한다는 평가를 받았다. 그러나 올 시즌 타율 0.346(3위)·101안타(2위)·14홈런(4위)·50타점(8위)을 올리며 LG의 포스트시즌 진출에 앞장서고 있다. 이병규는 “야구를 하면서 이렇게 좋은 일이 있을 줄 몰랐다”며 “LG에서 오랜만에 올스타전 MVP도 나왔으니 후반기에 분위기를 바꿔 팀을 꼭 포스트시즌에 올려놓고 싶다”고 말했다.

 홈런 레이스에서는 박정권이 결승에서 최형우(삼성)를 제치고 우승했다. ‘타자 스피드킹’ 행사에서는 투수 출신 내야수 최정(SK)이 시속 147㎞의 강속구를 던져 1위에 올랐다. 프로야구 후반기는 26일 시작된다. 

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