By Michael Clair
The FTX MLB Home Run Derby X team rosters are about to become absolutely star-studded. At the London event, each club played with a Rookie — a highly regarded prospect from Great Britain’s National Team. That will change for the event in Seoul, to be played on Saturday. Those players will now be replaced by Heroes — some of the greatest Korean baseball stars to ever play the game.
Keun Woo Jeong, who is playing for the Dodgers in the tournament, is excited to take part. “It is a personal honor to participate in MLB’s global event and represent KBO,” Jeong said. “I’m excited to give back a new and different type of enjoyment for many baseball fans.”
Tae Kyun Kim, who will be joining the Yankees for HRDX, said, “We are ready to show what Korean baseball players can do in front of the respectful MLB Legends and many baseball fans around the world.”
Let’s introduce all four players.
If you want home runs, Lee’s your man. The Samsung Lions legend became the youngest professional baseball player in the world to hit 300 home runs when he passed that mark at just 26 years old. His trophy case is overflowing, too: Lee won the KBO League MVP Award five times and was a Korean Series Champion four times — taking the Series MVP Award in 2012.
He also holds the KBO career records for home runs, runs scored, RBIs, total bases, slugging percentage, and OPS. He finished his career with 626 home runs between the KBO and NPB and has recorded more hits than any other player born in South Korea.
Lee also won a gold medal with Korea at the 2008 Summer Olympics and was named to the All-World Baseball Classic team at the 2006 tournament when South Korea finished third after losing to Japan in the semi-finals.
Kim started his career by winning the Rookie of the Year Award and only got better from there. One of the best pure hitters in the game, Kim became the youngest player in KBO history — and just the fourth overall — to reach 3,500 total bases. A superstar for the Hanwha Eagles, Kim posted a career .320 batting average, bashed out 311 career home runs, and was named to the All-World Baseball Classic Team in 2009 after leading the tournament in RBIs.
He not only has power, but the first baseman won three Golden Glove Awards, as well — something that should come in handy at HRDX as defense plays a crucial point-scoring role.
Yong Taik Park – Red Sox
A KBO Legend, Park set the record for the most hits in KBO history with 2,504, breaking Yang Joon-hyuk’s record of 2,318. Playing his entire career with the LG Twins, Park displayed amazing bat-to-ball skills as he hit 213 career home runs and posted a .308 average — skills that may come in handy when trying to smash target hits on the HRDX field.
Park is also known for his slick defense, collecting four Golden Glove Awards during his career, so should provide an immediate boost to his Red Sox teammates.
From the way his career started, you never would have expected Jeong to end up here. Drafted in the second round by the SK Wyverns, Jeong hit just .193 with a .216 slugging percentage in 52 games during his rookie season. He exploded from there, though, and Jeong finished his KBO career leading all second basemen in career WAR, RBIs, runs, and hits.
A true five-tool player, Jeong hit 121 career home runs, stole 371 bases — topping 40 in three separate seasons — won three Golden Glove Awards, two Korean Series titles, and finished with a .302 batting average.