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With one swing, Samsung's Lee Seung-yeop resumes chase for home run record

All Headlines 16:00 April 11, 2013

DAEGU, April 11 (Yonhap) -- With one swing of the bat Wednesday night, Lee Seung-yeop, a veteran slugger with the Samsung Lions in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), sent an emphatic message across the league: Look out, pitchers. Here comes the "Lion King."

Lee, 36, belted his first home run of the 2013 season against the Hanwha Eagles, as his three-run shot off Denny Bautista helped the Lions win the game 4-0 at home here in Daegu. This was the Lions' sixth game of the season.

Lee finally resumed his chase for the KBO record for career home runs. Yang Joon-hyuk, a retired outfielder and former teammate of Lee's on Samsung, holds the mark with 351. Lee is now at 346.

Long known as a slow starter, Lee again stumbled out of the gate this year. He had been 2-for-23 before the home run, and had gone hitless in his previous 12 at-bats.

But that one home run might have been just what Lee needed to get the ball rolling, because historically he has heated up in May and beyond, after sluggish April.

Lee owns the KBO's single-season record with 56 home runs, set in 2003. Four years earlier, he became the first KBO player to hit more than 50 homers, as he ended the year with 54.

In 1999, he didn't hit his first home run until his fifth game, and then went on to blast 53 more in his next 127 games. In 2003, he managed just six homers in April, but belted 15 in May, the highest total for any month in the KBO history. He hit 14 more homers in June.

Lee, who made his KBO debut in 1995, played for the Lions until 2003 and then spent the next eight seasons in Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) before returning to the Lions in 2012. With the NPB's Chiba Lotte Marines in 2005, Lee didn't hit his first long ball until 11 days into the season.

But in May, Lee once hit a home run in five consecutive games, and ended the season with 30, helping the Marines win the Japan Series.

Lee has reached 346 homers in his 11th KBO season. He has been a far more spectacular slugger than Yang, who hit his 351 homers in 18 seasons. Lee has hit 30 or more home runs in seven seasons, while Yang enjoyed only three such seasons.

After the game Wednesday, Lee said he was trying not to think too much when he stepped up to the plate, saying he didn't expect to hit it out of the park.

"I'd been playing really poorly but I always had confidence," Lee said. "If you don't have confidence in yourself as a professional athlete, then your career is over."

Lee revealed that he had only been swinging with his upper body and that affected his overall balance.

"Coaches pointed out to me that I had too much of my weight shifted toward my upper body," Lee said. "I am going to fix that through practice."


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