LG's six billion won man already looks like a good investment
Park Hae-min, the former Samsung Lions captain who joined the LG Twins on a four year, six-billion-won deal this season, has lit a spark under the Seoul club's sometimes sluggish defense in his first two games with the new team.
Park brings a solid bat to the Twins' lineup — he has a career .286 batting average — but his biggest contribution is in defense. Considered one of the best outfielders in the KBO, Park is adept at reading plays and has a serious turn of speed. Having joined the Lions in 2013, he stole 318 bases in his career with the Daegu club and led the KBO in that category from 2015 to 2018.
For the Twins, Park could prove to be the missing piece to a very confusing puzzle. Despite being one of the league’s founding teams, the Twins haven't won a title since 1994. Over the last decade the team have become playoff regulars, but they haven't made it to the Korean Series since 2002.
The long cold snap is not due to a lack of potential. While the Twins' batting lineup hasn't been the strongest in the league, their pitchers have helped carry the team. For the 2021 season, the Twins led the league in team ERA, at 3.57, and strikeouts, at 1,068, while giving away the fewest hits, fewest home runs and third-fewest walks.
Despite those numbers, the Twins finished 2021 in fourth place. Some pundits blame a lack of teamwork or an inability to capitalize on key opportunities for the team's lack of success. Park, with his extensive experience with the Lions and the Korean national team, could be the solution.
Park's potential was clear over the weekend as the Twins took on the Kia Tigers at Gwangju-Kia Champions Field in Gwangju. Across the two games, Park perfectly matched his career .286 batting average with two hits in seven at bats, with two runs scored, an RBI, a stolen base and a triple thrown in for good measure.
LG won both games — 9-0, 3-2 — but it was on Sunday that Park really started to shine.
Leading off the top of the third inning with the Twins up 1-0, Park hit a long fly ball to the left-center fence, sprinting to second for an easy double. Looking up as he neared second, Park realized that the Kia outfielders had fumbled the pickup and immediately accelerated to third for a triple. The next batter brought him home.
At the other end of the game, Park showed off his defensive skills as the Twins struggled to hold on to a slim 3-2 lead. With one out and one on, Park caught a crucial fly ball into the outfield despite having the low sun shining straight in his face. He quickly handled a follow up double to end the game and prevent the Tigers from crossing the plate.
LG manager Ryu Ji-hyun is also clearly hoping that Park can provide the spark the team needs this year. According to the outfielder, Ryu has given him free reign to play defense and run the bases however he wants, telling him to "do what you normally do."
BY BAE YOUNG-EUN AND JIM BULLEY [email@example.com]