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S. Korean baseball star Hong Sung-heon announces retirement

All Headlines 18:32 November 22, 2016

SEOUL, Nov. 22 (Yonhap) -- Hong Sung-heon, one of the power hitters in South Korean baseball, has decided to retire, his club announced on Tuesday.

The Doosan Bears said Hong, 39, will step down after playing 15 seasons in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO). This season Hong only had a .250 batting average in 17 games, although he did enjoy the Bears winning the league pennant and the championship series.

"It feels sad that I couldn't show to my fans that I can contribute to this team till the end," Hong said through the club. "But I realized that it's meaningful to leave at this moment for my young teammates and this can be a good retirement."

Hong played 11 seasons with the Bears and four seasons with the Lotte Giants from 2009 to 2012. Over his career, Hong hit 208 homers and 2,046 hits, along with a .301 batting average and 1,120 RBIs. He is the first right-handed hitter to produce more than 2,000 hits in the KBO.

Hong, who was Rookie of the Year in 1999, won two Golden Gloves as a catcher and another as a designated hitter.

Hong was the national team backstop when South Korea won gold medals at the Asian Games in 1998 and 2002. He also helped South Korea to win the bronze medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

With the duties behind the plate taking their toll, though, Hong became a full-time DH in 2008 and has remained a productive run producer.

"Baseball is everything in my life," he said. "Wherever I go and whatever I do, I want to prepare for meaningful work that can help the development of South Korean baseball."

Meanwhile, the Bears said they will release veteran infielder Ko Young-min. The 32-year-old was the national team shortstop when South Korea claimed the gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Games. He only played eight games for the Bears in 2016.

In this file photo taken on Oct. 18, 2015, Hong Sung-heon of the Doosan Bears watches his home run sail over the fence during the Korea Baseball Organization game against the NC Dinos at Masan Stadium in Changwon, South Gyeongsang Province. (Yonhap)

kdon@yna.co.kr
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