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Hard-hitting outfielder lone bright spot for struggling club

All Headlines 11:21 September 19, 2016

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, Sept. 19 (Yonhap) -- The Samsung Lions have fallen on hard times in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), going from winning their fifth straight pennant one year to getting stuck as ninth among 10 clubs the next.

But none of this is really the fault of their cleanup hitter, Choi Hyoung-woo. If anything, they will miss the postseason despite Choi's heroics at the plate.

Through Sunday's games, the outfielder is leading the KBO with a .371 batting average, 132 RBIs and 176 hits. He's also ranked sixth with 28 home runs and has established a single-season record with 44 doubles.

In the race for the batting title, Choi's teammate, Koo Ja-wook, is a distant second at .361. Choi also has a sizable lead in the RBI department with Kim Tae-kyun of the Hanwha Eagles sitting at 120.

The Lions have 13 games remaining, one more than the Eagles.

Choi is tied with Jung Eui-yoon of the SK Wyverns in hits, but the Wyverns have only six games left and Jung is batting just .257 in September, by far his least productive month of the season, compared to Choi's .446 monthly average.

Choi would easily be in the MVP conversation if not for the Lions' demise in 2016. Their spectacular fall from grace likely means Choi won't be receiving much consideration at all.

Voted Rookie of the Year in 2008, Choi has been the mainstay and heart of the Lions' lineup for years. Since 2009, Choi has hit at least 20 homers in all but one season and knocked in 100 runs or more in four seasons.

He leads the KBO with 231 home runs, 899 RBIs and 1,031 games played since the start of the 2008 season.

The durable 32-year-old has drawn interest from a handful of major league clubs, with one particular National League club giving him a long look. The free-agent-to-be insists, however, he won't be distracted by the scouts' presence.

"When I joined the Lions, I wasn't even thinking about hitting home runs, and I was just worried about how many games I would get to play," Choi said. "It means a lot to become a free agent, but I will concentrate on the remaining games until the end of the season."

Choi Hyoung-woo of the Samsung Lions gets a base hit against the NC Dinos in their Korea Baseball Organization game in Daegu on Sept. 11, 2016. (Yonhap)

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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