In jersey sales, old favorites take the top spots
The threads are also an important source of revenue for the clubs, with jersey replicas selling at stadium shops for between 70,000 won ($60) and 80,000 won each.
Last week, Ilgan Sports, an affiliate of the Korea JoongAng Daily, asked 10 Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) clubs which players had the hottest jerseys.
Unsurprisingly, the top-sellers mostly belong to long-time franchise stars.
Doosan Bears outfielder Kim Hyun-soo, who debuted with the club in 2006, accounted for 30 percent of jersey sales, followed by Jung Soo-bin and Min Byung-hun, who took 15 percent and 10 percent.
The biggest surprise on the Bears’ top-seller list was Dustin Nipper, who joined the club in 2011. It is uncommon for foreigners’ jerseys to be popular, but the 34-year-old American accounted for 10 percent of the team’s jersey sales.
The LG Twins also had a franchise star, outfielder Park Yong-taek, as the top-seller. Park, 36, has been with the Twins since 2002. He was followed by Oh Ji-hwan and Lee Jin-young.
The SK Wyverns and Lotte Giants were no different. The Wyverns said third baseman Choi Jeong was the top-seller, followed by pitchers Kim Kwang-hyun and Jeong Woo-ram.
The Giants’ top three were all hitters, with Son Ah-seop at No. 1, followed by All-Star Game MVP and catcher Kang Min-ho and infielder Hwang Jae-gyun.
The Kia Tigers say their top two pitchers are also their top jersey sellers. Lefty ace Yang Hyeon-jong, who leads the ERA in the league at 2.02, was No. 1, followed by closer Yoon Suk-min, who returned from the United States this season. Outfielder Kim Joo-chan, who joined the Tigers in 2013, was third.
The NC Dinos reported that Na Sung-beom and Park Min-woo, who both joined the Changwon-based club in 2012, had the hottest jerseys for the team. Veteran Lee Ho-joon, 39, was third.
The defending champion Samsung Lions saw their all-time KBO home run leader and hometown star Lee Seung-yuop top their list. Lee, who turns 39 on Aug. 18, debuted with the Lions in 1995. He was also followed by other Daegu-born players such as Kim Sang-su, Koo Ja-wook, Park Suk-min and An Ji-man.
The Hanwha Eagles said its jersey and merchandise sales increased about 300 percent year-on-year thanks to their improved performance. The league’s worst team for the last three years is now sitting fifth in the league.
Kim Tae-kyun, the teams’ top slugger, is also the top jersey seller.
More surprising, however, is the popularity of team manager Kim Sung-keun’s jersey, who came in at No. 4.
The Nexen Heroes’ most popular jerseys are all of players who began their professional careers on other teams. Park Byung-ho and Seo Geon-chang debuted with the LG Twins, while Kim Min-sung was with the Giants.
The situation is similar with KBO rookie KT Wiz. The Suwon club’s top-seller is Lee Dae-hyung, who joined from the Kia Tigers this season, while Jang Sung-woo and Ha Jun-ho, who joined the Wiz from the Giants through a trade deal in May, are second and third.
Rookie of the Year contenders were also popular picks. The Lions’ Koo Ja-wook was the team’s third-most sought after, but the team said sales of the 22-year-old’s No. 65 jersey have been rising sharply since June.
The Heroes’ Kim Ha-sung, also a top-notch rookie, is the fourth-bestselling jersey for the team.
BY LEE HYEONG-SEOK [firstname.lastname@example.org]