‘How could I have broken a bone…’ Returning like an iron man without surgery→Home run explosion that day, ‘trade protagonist’s’ second half strength?

“If I was worried about getting hurt again, I shouldn’t have played baseball,” he said, despite suffering a broken nose. He returned to the field and immediately hit a home run. This is infielder Lee Ho-yeon (28-KT Wiz), who recently joined the Wizards via trade.

Lee, a graduate of Gwangju Suchangcho, Jinchungjoong, Gwangju First High, and Sungkyunkwan University, was selected by the Lotte Giants with the 53rd overall pick in the sixth round of the 2018 secondary draft. The signing fee was 60 million won. He made his first-team debut in 2020, and in his five seasons with Lotte, he appeared in 96 games, batting .241 with two home runs and 17 RBIs.

His big break came on May 19. That’s when Lotte and KT exchanged left-hander Shim Jae-min, 29, for Lee Ho-yeon in a one-for-one trade. At the time, KT general manager Nado Hyun said, “Lee Ho-yeon, who has first-team experience, is an infield resource who has proven his hitting ability in the Futures League this season, ranking among the top in key hitting metrics such as batting average and on-base percentage. He can play all positions in the infield, and we expect synergistic effects through competition with our existing infield resources,” explained the background of the signing.

After moving to KT, Lee was given a chance to play on May 20, the day after the trade was announced. In May, Lee batted .172 in 10 games. He continued to play second base in June. However, on June 21, he suffered a serious injury during a game against his hometown team Lotte. He broke his nose when he was repeatedly hit in the face by a pitch, and ended the month with a .354 batting average.

Still, Lee did not undergo surgery and continued his rehabilitation, hoping to return to the first team. On June 8, he returned to the field and went 3-for-3 in a Futures League game against KIA in Iksan, Jeollabuk-do. The next day, on June 9, he was called up by KT manager Lee Kang-cheol and was named to the first team roster. He traveled from Iksan to Suwon. He told reporters at Wiz Park, “I wanted to come back as soon as possible. I came with a lot of excitement. I was scared at first, but I thought that if I got hit again, I would have surgery, so it was okay. If I was worried about getting hurt, I wouldn’t have played baseball,” he said, adding, “Even if I get hurt, I think it’s my luck. I guess I should leave it to the heavens,” he says with a laugh, a statement that speaks volumes about his mental toughness. 꽁머니

Lee returned like an iron man, starting at second base, and immediately hit a home run, a grand slam off Mario Sanchez, the KIA Tigers’ new foreign pitcher who was making his sensational KBO debut. In the bottom of the fifth inning, with the count 1-2, Lee took a four-pitch fastball from Sanchez and launched a solo arch over the right field fence. It was Lee’s second home run of the season. It was the only run off Sanchez, who had pitched 6 1/3 innings with 10 strikeouts. If KIA hadn’t won that game, Lee could have easily been considered the player of the game.

Since then, Lee has continued to hit well. He went 1-for-3 with a home run, one RBI, and one run scored against Kiwoom on the 11th, and 2-for-4 against Kiwoom on the 12th. His batting average in four games in July is .364. KT will now play a three-game weekend series against the Samsung Lions at Samsung Lions Park in Daegu after the All-Star break. With 80 games played this season, KT sits in seventh place in the league with 37 wins, two draws, and 41 losses. With 1.5 games in hand on fifth-place Lotte and 2.5 games in hand on fourth-place NC, a top-five finish is within reach. Will Lee Ho-yeon be able to give KT a big boost to join the top five? The expectations of KT fans are rising.

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