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Samsung Lions welcome brand spanking new ballpark

All Headlines 14:18 March 22, 2016

DAEGU, March 22 (Yonhap) -- The Samsung Lions have moved from the oldest baseball stadium in the country to the newest.

The Lions hosted the LG Twins at Daegu Samsung Lions Park in Daegu, 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul, in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) preseason game Tuesday, the first official contest in the brand new, 24,000-seat venue.

They'd been playing at the 10,000-seat Daegu Citizen Baseball Stadium since the KBO's inception in 1982. The stadium itself opened in 1948 and was renovated in 1981 before the launch of the nation's top professional baseball league.

"I'm happy enough that we've left artificial turf, which put players at risk for injuries," the Lions' manager Ryu Joong-il said before the game. "And they've built a beautiful ballpark. We have the same type of clay used in major league stadiums."

Ryu also gave his thumbs-up to the four trainer's rooms and the indoor practice facility that will allow players to train in inclement weather.

Team captain Park Han-yi, a Lions' lifer who's been with the club since 2001, said he'd been waiting for this day for a long time.

"It's a convenient environment for the players and we can just focus on playing baseball," the 37-year-old outfielder said. "We could only host 10,000 fans before, but now we can play in front of 24,000. That's a great source of motivation for the players."

Designated hitter Lee Seung-yuop, a 13-year Samsung veteran, said a new stadium was long overdue, but it was still better late than never.

The 39-year-old is the KBO's all-time leader in home runs with 416, and is closing in on another milestone. He's 140 hits away from becoming the sixth player to get 2,000 hits, something he would have accomplished much earlier if not for his eight-season stint in Japan from 2004 to 2011.

"If I can get a hit in every game, I will get to 2,000, and I'd love to get the 2,000th hit here at Lions Park," Lee said of the 144-game schedule. He had 156 hits in each of 2014 and 2015 seasons.

Ryu said he expects to see a lot of balls leave Daegu Samsung Lions Park, based on its dimensions. It has a 122 meter straightaway center, and is 99.5 meters down the left and right field lines. It's 123.4 meters each to the left-center and right-center gaps.

The foul territories are also narrower here than the previous stadium. Ryu said balls that would have been pop flies at the old park would end up in the seats at the new one.

The Lions will have a six-game homestand starting Tuesday. Their regular season home opener will be April 1 against the defending champion Doosan Bears in the rematch of last year's Korean Series.

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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