SEOUL, Oct. 18 (Yonhap) — Lee Seung-yuop, the all-time home run king in South Korean baseball, was formally introduced as new manager of the Doosan Bears on Tuesday, as he put the spotlight on the importance of playing fundamentally sound baseball.
The Seoul-based Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) club signed Lee to a three-year deal worth 1.8 billion won (US$1.27 million) last Friday to replace Kim Tae-hyoung, their manager of the previous eight seasons.
The Bears then held the inauguration ceremony for Lee at their home park, Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul, on Tuesday, ushering in a new era with the five-time league MVP widely considered the greatest hitter in KBO history.
The Bears enjoyed unprecedented success under Kim, who led the club to a league-record seven consecutive Korean Series from 2015 to 2021 and won three championships. However, following departures of key free agents and injuries to star players, the Bears slumped to a ninth-place finish this year at 60-82-2 (wins-losses-ties). They decided not to bring Kim back after his contract expired following the end of the season, and made the biggest offseason splash in the non-player division by appointing Lee.
Lee, who retired after 23 seasons in professional ball in 2017, has never managed or coached at any level. After his playing career ended, the 46-year-old has dabbled in broadcasting as a color commentator and served as an honorary ambassador for the KBO. He founded a namesake scholarship foundation to help youth baseball players.
Despite not managing or coaching, Lee stayed close to the game. Lee was named to the national team technical committee earlier this year for the Asian Games and the World Baseball Classic.
Lee is now taking over a team not expected to contend in the near future. He said he will stress the importance of fundamentals and details.
“Even though I was a home run hitter, I always emphasized fundamentals as a player. I want my team to be the same way,” Lee said at his inauguration ceremony, sporting No. 77 jersey. “The Bears I remember facing as a player put pressure on opponents with good fundamental plays and their attention to detail. My goal is to rebuild that foundation.”
Lee said he understands the criticism against him for being a first-time bench boss, but he has come prepared.
“People say this is not going to be an easy task,” Lee said. “But I woudn’t be here if I didn’t have confidence I could get the job done.”
Although Lee is the least experienced skipper in the KBO, he is the most impactful name to become manager in the KBO since Sun Dong-yol, the greatest pitcher in league history, took the Samsung Lions reins in 2005.
Lee is the career home run leader with 467 and also owns the single season record with 56 home runs, from the memorable 2003 season.
No one has won more regular season MVP awards than Lee’s five, and he remains the only player to win the top player prize for three consecutive years.
Lee also hit 54 home runs in 1999 and is one of just two players with multiple 50-homer campaigns.
Lee is also the lifetime leader in RBIs (1,498), runs (1,355), doubles (464) and total bases (4,077).
The pitcher-turned-first baseman spent his entire 15-year KBO career with the Samsung Lions, where he became so synonymous with the franchise that he was nicknamed “Lion King.” Lee won four Korean Series titles with the Lions: 2002, 2012, 2013 and 2014. He was the 2012 Korean Series MVP.
Lee played for three clubs in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) from 2004 to 2011, highlighted by his stint with the Yomiuri Giants. Lee had 159 home runs in the NPB.
Internationally, Lee hit some of the most iconic home runs in South Korean baseball history, helping the country to the gold medal at the 2008 Olympics and bronze medal at the 2000 Olympics. South Korea finished third at the inaugural World Baseball Classic in 2006, with Lee batting in the heart of the order.