SEOUL, July 01 (Yonhap) — After being homeless in the first seven games of June, KT Wiz slugger Park Byung-ho has gone deep in the last five games of the month.
The 35-year-old capped that streak with two long balls against the Samsung Lions in a 13-2 loss on Thursday. With the double dive, Park also moved up to fourth on the Korea Baseball Organization’s (KBO) all-time home run list with 353.
Park broke the tie with retired legend Yang Joon-hyuk and now sits seven behind Lotte Giants’ Lee Dae-ho. Lee, who has nine home runs in 2022, will retire after this season.
Park took Samsung starter David Buchanan deep for a two-run homer in the top of the third inning at Daegu Samsung Lions Park in Daegu, 290 kilometers southeast of Seoul.
In the very next set, Park reached Buchanan again, this time for a solo shot that gave the Wiz a 6-1 lead.
Lee Seung-yuop, another retired hitter, is the KBO career leader with 467 homers. SSG Landers’ Choi Jeong is second overall and leads all active players with 413, and he’s hit 10 homers so far this year.
Choi, 35, started getting regular playing time at age 19 in 2006 and has hit double digit home runs every year since then. While Choi may not match the 35 homers he hit a year ago, he still has a good chance of passing Lee’s all-time mark before he’s finished.
Park only became an everyday player in the second half of the 2011 season at the age of 25, following a trade from the LG Twins to the Nexen (currently Kiwoom) Heroes. Park also spent the 2016 and 2017 seasons playing for the Minnesota Twins, an ultimately unsuccessful stint that followed back-to-back 50 homer seasons and then a 40 homer campaign with the Heroes.
Park, who turns 36 in nine days, may miss Lee’s mark and also finish behind Choi when the two finish playing. But Park will almost certainly win his sixth career home run crown this year.
He leads the league with 26 homers this year and no one else even has 20. Kim Hyun-soo of the Twins and Lee Jung-hoo of the Kiwoom Heroes are tied for second with 14 dingers.
Park is the first KBO player to hit at least 20 homers in nine straight seasons. He reached that mark last year in 118 games, but hit his 20th home run in his 65th game this year.
The Heroes let Park walk as a free agent after the first baseman hit a .227/.323/.430 line, his worst numbers at any level in a full season. The Wiz then rolled the dice, awarding Park a three-year contract worth 3 billion won ($2.3 million).
The deal that didn’t seem like a smart investment at first will likely become KBO’s best deal this year.