These are the people who made Lotte Giants third baseman Lee Dae-ho, who at the age of 29 set a new world record by hitting a home run during his ninth consecutive game. If Lee Seung-yup, who successfully made the transition from pitcher to hitter, grew up in a relatively well-off environment, Lee’s dark past growing up in an underprivileged environment makes his day shine even more.
Lee’s family difficulties began at age 3. His father died, and when his mother remarried, he and his elder brother had to live with his grandmother, who sold vegetables and doenjang, soybean paste, in the Suyeongpaldo Market in Busan. His three uncles, understanding the difficulties faced by Lee, brought him to the baseball stadium, providing the setting for his baseball dreams. In third grade at Suyeong Elementary School, his friend suggested they both play baseball together when Lee hesitated to join the school baseball team due to his difficult family situation. That friend was Choo Shin-soo, who currently plays for the Cleveland Indians of the US Major League.
Shin Jong-se, currently the coach for Busan Technical High School, scouted Lee to Daedong
Middle School. The young Lee stayed at Shin’s home for two years and six months. A hitter through middle school, he became a pitcher when he entered Kyungnam High School. He won the Blue Dragon Flag National High School Baseball Championship in 1998, and together with Kim Tae-gyun and Choo Shin-soo helped South Korea win the World Youth Baseball Championship in Canada in 2000. In his second year of high school, however, his grandmother passed away, forcing him to take on greater responsibilities.
In 2001, he received a 210 million Won ($175,278) signing bonus in joining the Lotte Giants, but more setbacks awaited him. He threw so many pitches like other high school aces that he injured his shoulder. To transform himself into a slugger, he worked out intensely to drop weight off his over-100kg physique, and ruptured the ligament in his right knee. In 2002, he underwent surgery. Lee was unable to move comfortably, and he put on more weight, reaching his current 130kg frame. Last year, he married his girlfriend Shin Hye-jeong, who took care of him during that time.
The man who turned him into a slugger was former Lotte Giants coach Woo Yong-deok, who turned Lee Seung-yup into a slugger at Samsung. Former Lotte coach Yang Sang-moon, who put Lee, who used to be called the slightly humiliating nickname of “future home run king,” in the cleanup spot, also placed a part in making him who he is today.
“You have to play baseball all year. Even in winter, you must play. If you just play during the summer, it is not enough.” This is what Lee, who was reborn as South Korea’s top hitter in 2006 when he won the Triple Crown with a .336 average, 26 homers and 88 RBIs (and a slugging percentage of .571), said when asked during batting practice whether it was tough physically. Perhaps because he has overcome so much, he is always full of energy. Due to his unreserved manner of speaking, he has earned the nickname “mouth of fear.” One can see his intense concentration in the fact that of his nine homes, three were on his last at-bat. During every off-season, he helps the needy with coal deliveries, thinking of memories of his grandmother.