The Lotte Giants’ surge has been centred on Shi Han-bu. Ahn Kwon-soo, 30, is a third-generation Korean-American outfielder.
Ahn has been Lotte’s leadoff man since the opening day, batting .318 (27-for-85) with two home runs, 12 RBIs and four doubles in April alone.
Unfortunately, in May, he was unable to maintain his momentum. Injuries struck. He was suffering from elbow pain.
LOTTE coach Larry Sutton said, “I think the reason why Ahn Kwon-soo’s pace dropped compared to the first month is because of his elbow pain. “I think the reason why he hasn’t been hitting as well as he did in the first month is because he has some elbow discomfort,” said Sutton, “but he’s playing Gold Glove-level defence and he’s running the bases aggressively. He makes his presence felt at the plate as well.”
The manager was right. Starting in left field on the 27th, Ahn went 2-for-4 with two doubles, two RBIs and one run scored.
He also made his presence felt offensively, especially in the top of the seventh inning. With runners on first and second and a 2-0 lead after Yoo Kang-nam’s RBI double, Ahn lined a fastball from Kim Jae-woong that was just outside the zone and grazed the shortstop’s side. It was a hit that beat Kiwoom’s forward defence.
“It was a technical hit,” said SBS Sports commentator Lee Soon-cheol.먹튀검증
On the defensive side of the ball, Lee Won-seok put on a show. Two batters later in the inning, Lee Won-seok made a picturesque sliding catch to end the inning. In the bottom of the sixth inning, he snatched a foul ball from Lee Jeong-hoo with his body, taking the pressure off starter Charlie Barnes’ shoulders.
After the game, Ahn Kwon-soo said, “Even though my elbow is not good, I kept thinking, ‘What can I do?’ Recently, I have been simplifying my swing and paying a lot of attention to team batting and defence.”
Ahn Kwon-soo is also one of the best atmosphere makers on the team. “I have to do the best I can when the team needs me more than my personal performance and results,” he said. “I will play baseball for the team no matter what the situation is for the rest of the season.”
Ahn Kwon-soo is on a one-year clock. A third-generation Korean-American born and raised in Japan, Ahn was selected by Doosan in the 10th round, 99th overall, in the 2020 KBO First-Year Player Draft. After performing adequately as a backup outfielder for Doosan, he left the team after last season.
Under South Korea’s military service law, he would have to enter active duty after 2023 to continue playing. With only one year available, Doosan removed Ahn from the pending list after reaching an agreement. Lotte then invited him to join them for one year, and he has exceeded expectations, solving their leadoff and middle infield problems.
However, the one-year deadline hasn’t changed. Unless the military service issue is resolved, this will be the last year that Ahn Kwon-soo will play in the KBO. His only hope is to make the Korean National Team for the Hangzhou Asian Games in September and win a gold medal to qualify as an Arts and Sports Personnel.
In what could be his final season, Ahn continues to hit and run despite the pain in his elbow.