Retiring slugger Lee Dae-ho hoping to play for KBO championship for 1st time in final season

SEOUL-- Everything Lee Dae-ho does during the 2022 Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) season will have a "final" ring to it, even a largely meaningless preseason game.

Before the 39-year-old slugger for the Lotte Giants, who will retire after this season, played his last exhibition game on Tuesday, he took a moment to address his team in the clubhouse.

"As I was talking to the guys about this being my last preseason, I got emotional," Lee said Thursday during the media day in Seoul. He was representing his club in the annual event, which featured a televised group press conference and a separate media scrum afterward.

"While preparing for this season, I kept thinking, 'This is going to be the last one,'" Lee said. "It hit me before that last preseason game."

Lee said he hopes to do something for the very first time in 2022: playing in the Korean Series with a championship on the line. During his illustrious career that began in 2001, Lee has never reached the championship round.

He did win the Japan Series with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks in 2015 and was named the Japan Series MVP, too, but winning the Korean Series for his hometown Giants will be more special to Lee.

"It's my dream to play in the Korean Series," said Lee, the 2010 regular season MVP and a two-time Triple Crown winner. "I have no other personal goals. I just want to make it to the Korean Series.

The Giants don't appear to have what it takes to go that deep into the postseason, but Lee begged to differ.

"I've read articles where pundits said we're a non-playoff team, and honestly, I was upset," Lee said. "My teammates and I don't think we're going to be a pushover. I am going to build this team into a contender and hand it over to a new generation of players."

Lee is tied for third all time in with 351 home runs and fifth with 1,324 RBIs. He has been productive well into his 30s. He played all 144 games in 2020 while putting up 20 homers and 110 RBIs. Last year, Lee had 19 homers and 81 RBIs in 114 games.

Two of Lee's close friends in the KBO, Choo Shin-soo of the SSG Landers and Oh Seung-hwan of the Samsung Lions, also attended the media event. The three were all born in 1982 and grew up playing with and against each other as members of a golden generation in Korean baseball.

Choo, Lee's elementary school teammates, said he was happy to have been Lee's friend and rival.

"I have so much respect for Dae-ho. He deserves all the accolades in the world," Choo said. "He should be celebrated in his final season. I'd like to thank him for his contributions to Korean baseball."

Oh said he wanted to congratulate Lee on a successful career.

"I can't believe this will be his last season," the veteran closer said. "I hope he can come to my retirement ceremony."

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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