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Once top base stealer, Lee Jong-beom has trouble teaching Hanwha art of swiping

All Headlines 11:22 May 31, 2013

SEOUL, May 31 (Yonhap) -- The Hanwha Eagles, the last-place team this season at 14-30-1 in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), are also last in many offensive categories, steals being one.

It is almost a cruel irony, because the team's base-running coach, Lee Jong-beom, was one of the league's premier base stealers in his playing days.

Lee retired in 2012 after 16 illustrious seasons in the KBO with 510 career steals, second all-time. Lee owns the KBO record for most steals in a season with 84 and led the league in base swipes four times.

He joined the Eagles as the coach before this season, hoping to teach the art of base stealing to the team that had the second fewest swipes in 2012 with 107 in 133 games.

Before the Eagles faced the LG Twins on Thursday, Lee admitted things hadn't gone quite the way he'd hoped.

The Eagles have stolen just 26 bases through 45 games this season, the fewest in the league. They didn't have any Thursday and have now gone five consecutive games without a steal.

"As their base-running coach, I'd like to teach players how to steal," Lee said. "They haven't been able to pick it up."

Not only do they have the fewest steals, the Eagles have the fewest attempts, with 45. The Doosan Bears lead the league in both attempts and steals, with 91 and 67, respectively.

Lee attributed the poor numbers to his players' lack of confidence on base paths.

In three of their past five games, the Eagles didn't even attempt to steal. On Tuesday against the Twins, four different players were thrown out.

"Our success rate is so low, and the guys have become more afraid of getting caught," Lee said. "And now they aren't getting good jumps and that causes our percentage to drop even more."

Lee said the Eagles' manager, Kim Euong-yong, has decided the players shouldn't even try to steal for the time being. The coach said it was a shame, because he thinks stealing a base at the right moment can change the course of a game.

He said when a speedy runner gets on first, it can distract and rattle the opposing pitcher on the mound. To try to prevent the runner from stealing second, the pitcher is likely to shun off-speed pitches and throw more fastballs, according to Lee, and that will allow the batter at the plate to simplify his approach and wait for a fastball to hit.

Lee lamented that the Eagles, with so few steals, haven't been able to rely on that formula.

"I can understand that players are afraid of hurting themselves or getting thrown out," he said. "But I still would like to see them become more aggressive."

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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