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(2nd LD) Eric Thames becomes first with 40-40 in S. Korean baseball; Park Byung-ho sets RBI mark

All Headlines 22:10 October 02, 2015

(ATTN: ADDS photo; UPDATES with final scores)

SEOUL, Oct. 2 (Yonhap) -- American slugger Eric Thames became the first player in South Korean baseball on Friday with a 40-40 season, while his rival MVP candidate Park Byung-ho set an RBI record the same evening.

Thames, the hard-hitting first baseman/designated hitter for the NC Dinos in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), swiped his 40th bag of the season in the third inning against the SK Wyverns on the road in Incheon, west of Seoul. He also hit his 47th home run of the season in the first inning.

The Dinos prevailed 9-2. Thames, as DH on Friday, went 2-for-4 with four RBIs, a run scored and a walk.

In the nation's capital, Park, the slugging first baseman for the Nexen Heroes, hit a three-run home run against the Lotte Giants to reach 146 RBIs for a season, two better than the previous single-season record of 144, set by Lee Seung-yuop of the Samsung Lions in 2003.

The home run, off Bae Jang-ho in the fifth, was Park's 53rd of the season, one better than his career-high set last season. Lee holds the all-time KBO mark with 56, also in 2003.

The Heroes went on to beat the Giants 10-6, as Park went 2-for-3 with three RBIs, two runs scored and a walk.

Lee drove in 144 runs in 131 games in 2003. The KBO expanded to 144 games this season, and Park was playing in his 139th game of the season. The Heroes will play the final game of their season Saturday.

In his second KBO season after stints with the Toronto Blue Jays and the Seattle Mariners, Thames has been rewriting the record book all season. There have been seven 30-30 seasons in the KBO, posted by five different players, but no one before Thames had done the 40-40. He also hit for the cycle twice this year, the first player to do so in the KBO's 33-year history.

In Major League Baseball, there have been four 40-40 seasons, mostly recently by Alfonso Soriano in 2006 with the Washington Nationals.

After leaving yard for a three-run bomb in his first time up, Thames drew a leadoff walk in the top of the third. SK's left-handed starter Shin Jae-woong threw to first base to keep Thames in check. Yet on Shin's first pitch to the batter, Thames took off and beat the throw by catcher Chung Sang-ho.

Thames got up and lifted the second base bag to celebrate his historic steal.

He had stolen his 39th in the Dinos' previous game on Wednesday.

Thames is a strong MVP candidate this year. He entered Friday's game as the KBO's leader in batting average (.380), on-base percentage (.497), slugging percentage (.788), runs scored (129) and doubles (41). Before that three-run shot in the first inning, Thames ranked third with 46 home runs and tied for second with 136 RBIs.

Thames, 28, has reportedly drawn interest from Japanese clubs. Earlier Friday, the Dinos announced that they will negotiate with Thames for his third season with the club.

Park, the MVP in 2012 and 2013 before finishing second in the voting in 2014, will give Thames a run for his money with yet another strong season. He padded his league lead in home runs and RBIs Friday and now has 53 jacks and 146 RBIs. He's also among the league leaders in batting average, runs scored, hits, slugging percentage and on-base percentage.

Park, 29, is eligible to be posted for major league clubs this offseason, and scouts from more than a dozen big league teams have watched him in action this year.

He will look to follow in the footsteps of his former Nexen teammate Kang Jung-ho, who signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates via posting last offseason to become the first South Korean position player to jump from the KBO to MLB.


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