Lee Joo-chan’s sense of master and Lotte’s first winning streak

Lotte Giants manager Kim Tae-hyung pointed out Lee Ju-chan as an infielder he was watching on the first day of the team’s first spring camp in Guam on January 31. Lee Ju-chan was a player who was not well known even among Lotte fans, who had only three first-team games and seven hits in at-bats since joining the team as a nurturing player in 2021.

Since his time as Doosan’s head coach (2015-2022), Kim has displayed very high standards for evaluating fielders’ defense capabilities, especially those whose main positions are shortstop and third baseman. It was significant that Kim gave such a “OK” signal in defense and throwing capability.

Lee Ju-chan participated in the team’s closing camp at Lotte’s second division stadium in Sangdong, Gimhae, shortly after manager Kim Tae-hyung took the helm of Lotte in October last year. Although he showed impressive performance in 42 games in the Futures League with a batting average of 0.301 (34 hits in 113 times at bat), three homers, 18 RBIs and five steals, and an OPS of 0.843, he was not classified as a key prospect in the team.

However, coach Kim Tae-hyung gave generous marks to Lee’s skills and potential during the closing camp. After taking Lee to this year’s Guam-Okinawa spring camp, he also included Lee in the opening entry on April 23.

Lee Ju-chan’s current position in the Lotte infield is not a major competition. However, he took a spot in the backup lineup based on his robust defense capability and strong performance that can be fully utilized as a pinch runner.

Lee Joo-chan hit an “accident” at a time when he was gradually increasing his chances to play. He was put in as a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the 10th inning of extra time when Lotte was tied 6-6 against the Doosan Bears in Sajik on the 7th.

Head coach Kim Tae-hyung put forward Lee Joo-chan instead of left-handed hitter Park Seung-wook against Doosan left-hander Young-gun Kim Ho-joon. After reporting a hit in the 2024 season against the Sajik NC Dinos on the 30th of last month, Lee Joo-chan had no hit in two at-bats against the Hanwha Eagles in Daejeon on the 2nd and no hit in two at-bats against Doosan on the 5th, making it difficult to say that he had a good batting feeling.

Lee paid back with a finishing hit to manager Kim Tae-hyung’s trust in giving him the chance. It was a count that was disadvantageous as it was one ball, two strikes, but he hit a finishing, one-run double that passed by the third base by hitting Kim Ho-joon’s 128-km fork ball on the fifth pitch. He did not miss a mistake that came into the high course in the middle of the strike zone.

The Doosan bench applied for a video review of Lee’s foul and fair play, but the KBO video review center remained the same. Lee’s first final hit and RBI in his professional debut came at the most dramatic moment.

After the game, Lee Ju-chan said, “After the game was handed over due to overtime, manager Kim Tae-hyung and batting coach kept telling me to prepare (for the pinch hit), so I thought I might go to the batter’s box,” and looked back, “I went to the batter’s box with my own plan, but it didn’t go as I wanted.”

“The coach told me in the dugout to hit (home plate) a little inward because I was losing my body (when hitting), but I think I hit it the way I felt. I thought he wouldn’t give me a good ball because the first base was empty anyway. Since I’m a rookie player, I was looking at a slightly higher course, expecting to play with a breaking ball,” he explained.

The water baptism of his teammates after hitting a finishing hit in the first division, which he had only imagined, was so thrilling that it was hard to explain. Lee Ju-chan said, “I feel good but cold,” but his face was full of smiles.

Lee Ju-chan gave a great meaning to the fact that he repaid Kim Tae-hyung for giving him the opportunity for the first time. Although he never showed an outstanding performance when looking back on himself, he mentioned himself through the media and repeatedly expressed his gratitude to the head coach who gave him the right to bat in the showdown.

Lee Ju-chan said, “In fact, even though I am not a very good player, the coach kept putting me in the first team entry and trusting me. But when I went out to the game, I couldn’t show what he expected,” and smiled shyly, “I’m glad I did one when it was important today.”

“I do well in (hitting) training. I can do as I thought, but I can’t do well in every game. It’s meaningless to be a good player in practice only when I play,” he said. “I think this year is a really good opportunity. I have to do well according to the given situation. There is no answer other than being good.”

BY: 스포츠토토

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