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By Yoo Jee-ho
SEOUL, Dec. 9 (Yonhap) -- The Nexen Heroes on Tuesday produced four winners of the Golden Glove Awards, presented to the best overall players at each position in the top South Korean baseball league, while Samsung Lions' slugger Lee Seung-yuop bagged his record-setting ninth Golden Glove.
Nexen second baseman Seo Geon-chang, voted MVP of the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) last month, led a list of four winners for the Heroes at a ceremony held in Seoul. Seo collected 292 out of 321 possible votes for his second Golden Glove in three seasons.
Despite its name, the Golden Gloves here aren't necessarily presented to the best defensive players at each position, but to players who put up the best overall offensive numbers. For position players and designated hitters, leaders in major offensive categories automatically become candidates in their respective positions. Pitchers who lead the league in wins, ERA and strikeouts, among other categories, are also automatically shortlisted for the Golden Gloves.
The award is closer to the Silver Slugger than to the Gold Glove in Major League Baseball (MLB). Even designated hitters earn Golden Gloves in the KBO.
Seo put together a historic season in 2014. He set new single season records with 201 hits, 17 triples and 135 runs scored, and captured his first batting title with a .370 average.
Earlier on Tuesday, Seo also got a major raise in his salary. After making 93 million won (US$83,890) in 2014, Seo signed a contract worth 300 million won for 2015. After accepting his Golden Glove, Seo thanked his management for their generosity.
"I'd like to thank the front office for allowing me to concentrate only on playing baseball," he said. "It gives me a bigger sense of responsibility for next year, and I am going to try to live up to expectations."
Two other Nexen infielders also took home Golden Gloves. First baseman Park Byung-ho, who led the KBO with 52 home runs and 124 RBIs, won the award for the third straight year. He collected 279 out of 321 votes.
Shortstop Kang Jung-ho, who had 40 home runs and 117 RBIs, both records by a shortstop in a season, also won his third straight Golden Glove and his fourth in the past five years. Kang earned 305 votes, more than any other winners on Tuesday.
Lee Seung-yuop won the Golden Glove as a DH. He'd won seven straight as a first baseman starting from 1997 to 2003, and then won his eighth one as a DH in 2012.
Lee enjoyed a career renaissance this past season at age 38. He belted 32 home runs and drove in 101 runs along with a .308 batting average, all of them his highest totals since he returned to the KBO in 2012 after an eight-year stint in Japan. He also became the oldest KBO player ever to bat .300 with at least 30 home runs and 100 RBIs.
<YNAPHOTO path='C:/YNA/YNACLI~1/Down/Article/AEN20141209009251315_01_i.jpg' id='' title='' caption='Winners of the 2014 Golden Gloves in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) pose with their trophies in Seoul on Dec. 9, 2014. (Yonhap)'/>
With his ninth Golden Glove, Lee broke a tie with Han Dae-hwa, who won eight awards as a third baseman, and Yang Joon-hyuk, who won four as a DH, three as an outfielder and one as a first baseman.
Lee said he won't just rest on his laurels and will try to improve himself even further next year.
"I realize I am getting closer to retirement, and every season, every game and every at-bat have become that much more precious," Lee said. "This was my 20th season in professional baseball. I've played baseball a long time but the more I play it, the more I love it. I hope to play a lot more."
Andy Van Hekken, the Heroes' left-handed ace, won the pitching Golden Glove with 278 votes. He led the KBO with 20 wins, while finishing second with 178 strikeouts and third with a 3.51 ERA.
Van Hekken became the first foreign winner of a Golden Glove since Kia Tigers pitcher Aquilino Lopez in 2009.
At third base, Park Sok-min of the Lions earned 162 votes to win his first Golden Glove. Park hit a career-high 27 home runs and hit .315, his third straight season with at least a .300 batting average.
The winning outfielders were: Choi Hyung-woo of the Lions, Na Sung-bum of the NC Dinos and Son A-seop of the Lotte Giants.
It was Son's fourth straight Golden Glove. He finished third with a .362 average and second with 175 hits.
Choi won his second straight Golden Glove after finishing fifth with a .356 average and tying for fifth with 31 home runs.
Na became the first-ever Golden Glove winner for the Dinos, which joined the KBO in 2013. He batted .329 with 30 home runs and 101 RBIs, all career highs.
Choi led all outfielders with 230 out of 321 votes, followed by Na with 216 and Son with 203.
Yang Eui-ji of the Doosan Bears picked up his first Golden Glove at catcher. He batted .294 to lead all candidates at his position.
Yang emerged victorious from the closest race on Tuesday. Lee Ji-young of the Lions had 103 votes, while Kim Tae-gun of the Dinos earned 100.
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