All-Star game returns after three years with sweet goodbye to Lee Dae-ho
The KBO All-Star game was held on Saturday at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in southern Seoul for the first time in three years.
The All-Star game pits the Dream All-Star squad against the Nanum All-Star squad, and KBO fans had voted for their All-Star picks out of a 120-player shortlist to make up the Dream All-Star and Nanum All-Star squads since June.
The Dream All-Star team is made up of players from the KT Wiz, Doosan Bears, Samsung Lions, SSG Landers and Lotte Giants, and the Nanum All-Star team is made up of players from the LG Twins, Kiwoom Heroes, NC Dinos, Kia Tigers and Hanwha Eagles.
The actual game on Saturday started a few hours after the start of the event, with pre-match activities building the atmosphere.
The traditional Super Race, an obstacle race where players and fans of each team play against each other, took place with the Dream All-star squad beating the Nanum All-star squad.
Individual players celebrated in their own way, including former major-leaguer Nick Martini who played with the Chicago Cubs last year wearing a Superman cape and drinking a martini before his at-bat.
Kia Tigers starter Yang Hyeon-jong came on the field with a shirt saying "Thank you" in big letters, apparently thanking fans for getting him to top the All-Star vote this year with more than 1.41 million.
Yang topped all players by earning more than 1.41 million votes, 12,000 short of former Samsung Lions star Lee Seung-yuop's record 1,530,047, set in 2015.
This year's All-Star Game pit former Texas Rangers pitcher Yang against St. Louis Cardinals left-hander Kim Kwang-hyun.
Kim also came on to the field to bow and apologize to the Kia Tigers fans after Socrates Brito was forced to miss out the All-Star Game with a broken nose after taking a pitch from Kim to the face.
But the highlight of the match was former Giants first baseman Lee Dae-ho, who played his last All-Star match.
Ahead of the All-star match, he was voted as the Dream team's designated hitter, beating Choo Shin-soo of the Landers.
Saturday's match was Lee Dae-ho's 10th All-Star Game and his first in four years, setting a new record for the most All-Star appearances. But as the veteran slugger plans to retire at the end of this season, this year will be his final appearance at the All-Star match.
Lee also came on the field wearing a jersey with a big "Thank you" on the back and kissed the field as he played his last All-Star match. He was honored by other players as they tossed him in the air.
To celebrate one's retirement at an All-Star match is a great honor. Just as when Lee Seung-yuop retired in 2017, fans and players from all 10 clubs sang Lee Dae-ho's chant.
Lee Dae-ho made his professional debut in 2001 with the Lotte Giants and had a batting average of 0.307, 351 home runs, 2020 hits and 1,324 RBIs in 1,892 KBO matches until last year.
The Nanum All-Star squad beat Dream All-Star 6-3 on Saturday.
The KBO will now break for four days, returning on Friday for the next round of weekend series.
BY YUN SO-HYANG [firstname.lastname@example.org]