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(LEAD) Star catcher earns near-unanimous support for KBO's Golden Glove

Sports 18:07 December 11, 2020

(ATTN: ADDS photos, comments in para 7, voting results at bottom)
By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, Dec. 11 (Yonhap) -- The consensus pick as the best catcher in South Korean baseball earned near-unanimous support for the final piece of hardware for the season on Friday.

Yang Eui-ji of the NC Dinos won his third straight Golden Glove and his sixth overall by winning 340 out of 342 votes cast by baseball writers, broadcasters and color commentators.

NC Dinos' catcher Yang Eui-ji poses with the Golden Glove trophy at the awards ceremony in Seoul on Dec. 11, 2020, in this photo provided by the Korea Baseball Organization. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

Doosan Bears' Park Sei-hyok and KT Wiz's Jang Sung-woo each had a vote to keep Yang from becoming the first unanimous winner in Golden Glove history, which dates back to the inaugural Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) season in 1982.

Yang led all backstops with a .328 batting average, 33 home runs and 124 RBIs, a single-season record by a catcher, while playing his usual stellar defense.

Yang punctuated the year by captaining the Dinos to their first Korean Series title last month. He was also voted the series MVP.

The 33-year-old now ranks second all-time among catchers with six Golden Gloves, one behind the retired star Kim Dong-soo.

In this file photo from Nov. 24, 2020, Yang Eui-ji of the NC Dinos (C) celebrates with his teammates after winning the Korean Series title over the Doosan Bears at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul. (Yonhap)

"I've accomplished so much this year, and this Golden Glove is a huge honor," Yang said. "After we finished in fifth place last year, my teammates asked me to be the new captain. I want to thank those guys for following my lead all year. I didn't do anything alone. Our championship was a complete team effort."

The awards ceremony was held in Seoul without fans or media on hand. Only a handful of nominees and likely winners were present.

Winners of the Golden Gloves in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) pose with their trophies at the awards ceremony in Seoul on Dec. 11, 2020, in this photo provided by the KBO. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

Elsewhere, the regular season MVP Mel Rojas Jr. earned the second most votes, 309, to win one of three outfield Golden Gloves.

Rojas spent the past four seasons with the Wiz but will join the Hanshin Tigers in Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) starting next year.

Rojas led the KBO with 47 home runs and 135 RBIs. Rojas finished third with a .349 batting average to come up one category shy of winning the Triple Crown.

Three Golden Gloves were up for grabs for outfielders regardless of position, and Rojas was joined by LG Twins' left fielder Kim Hyun-soo (221 votes) and Kiwoom Heroes' right fielder Lee Jung-hoo (202 votes).

It was Kim's fifth, and first since 2015, and Lee's third straight. Kim knocked in 119 runs to rank third overall, while Lee finished sixth batting average (.333) and tied for fifth in hits (181).

In this file photo from Nov. 10, 2020, Mel Rojas Jr. of the KT Wiz celebrates his solo home run against the Doosan Bears in the bottom of the third inning of Game 2 of the second-round series in the Korea Baseball Organization postseason at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul. (Yonhap)

Despite the name's connotation, Golden Gloves have been typically presented to players who put up the best offensive and pitching numbers, instead of the best defensive players. In addition to the nine fielding positions, the KBO also hands out Golden Gloves to designated hitters. League leaders in major offensive and pitching categories all earned automatic nominations.

Yang's Dinos teammate, Park Min-woo, won his second straight Golden Glove at second base with 299 votes. Park ranked fourth in batting average (.345) and eighth in on-base percentage (.402), while leading all second basemen in those categories. It was his sixth straight season with at least a .300 batting average.

Kiwoom Heroes' shortstop Kim Ha-seong gives an acceptance speech after winning a Golden Glove at the awards ceremony in Seoul on Dec. 11, 2020, in this photo provided by the Korea Baseball Organization. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

Another easy choice came at shortstop, where Kim Ha-seong of the Heroes earned his third straight Golden Glove. Kim collected 277 votes.

Kim batted .306/.397/.523, with 30 home runs, 109 RBIs and 111 runs scored to lead all shortstops.

Two Wiz players earned their first Golden Gloves: Hwang Jae-gyun at third base and Kang Baek-ho at first base.

The third base was the most hotly contested position, as Hwang beat Heo Kyoung-min of the Doosan Bears by 37 votes.

In this file photo from Oct. 28, 2020, Hwang Jae-gyun of the KT Wiz flips his bat after hitting a solo home run against the Kia Tigers in the top of the first inning of a Korea Baseball Organization regular season game at Gwangju-Kia Champions Field in Gwangju, 330 kilometers south of Seoul. (Yonhap)

Hwang posted a .312/.370/.512 line, plus 21 home runs and 97 RBIs. It was his fifth straight 20-homer season. Hwang also put up most defensive innings at third base with 1,113 2/3.

Kang, who moved from outfield to first base this year, batted .330/.411/.544 with 23 homoe runs and 89 RBIs in 129 games. Kang ranked inside the top 10 in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, hits and runs scored.

LG Twins' outfielder Kim Hyun-soo gives an acceptance speech after winning a Golden Glove at the awards ceremony in Seoul on Dec. 11, 2020, in this photo provided by the Korea Baseball Organization. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

Doosan Bears' right-hander Raul Alcantara won the pitching Golden Glove with 232 votes. He was the league's only 20-game winner this year and also finished third in the regular season MVP voting.

Batting champion Choi Hyoung-woo won the Golden Glove as designated hitter for the Kia Tigers, adding it to the five he'd won as an outfielder. Choi batted .354 for his second career batting title, and also ranked fourth in hits (185), fourth in RBIs (115) and second in on-base plus slugging (1.023).

Choi collected 168 votes to beat the Dinos' Na Sung-bum by 55 votes.

By clubs, the Wiz led everyone with three winners, while the Dinos and the Heroes had two winners each. The Bears, the Twins and the Tigers each produced one winner.

In this file photo from Oct. 28, 2020, Choi Hyoung-woo of the Kia Tigers tosses his bat after hitting a two-run home run against the KT Wiz during the bottom of the first inning of a Korea Baseball Organization regular season game at Gwangju-Kia Champions Field in Gwangju, 330 kilometers south of Seoul. (Yonhap)

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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