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Around the KBO: KIA Tigers Closer Jung Hai-young Leads All-Star Balloting; Shin-Soo Choo Selling His MLB Jerseys

 Conor Liguori  |    Jun 10th, 2024 2:28pm EDT

Outfielder Choo Shin-Soo of SSG Landers is selling his game-worn MLB jerseys as he approaches retirement. (Photo by Han Myung-Gu/Getty Images)

The top half of the Korea Baseball Organization standings is tight, with only 5.5 games separating the first-place LG Twins and the fifth-place SSG Landers. Which teams will remain consistent? Which teams will fall off?

As the KBO season progresses, here is a look at the top news and notes from the past week in Korea’s highest level of professional baseball.

Closing Pitcher Leads All-Star Voting – In a development foreign to Major League Baseball All-Star Game voters, KIA Tigers closer Jung Hai-young earned the most votes among KBO fans with 1,012,173 through two KBO All-Star Game voting system rounds.

Typically, the best hitter in the American and National League in MLB receives the most votes, so a closer leading the way in the KBO is intriguing. Jung is tied for the 2024 KBO lead in saves with 18 and made his first All-Star team in 2022 at 20.

The 2024 KBO All-Star Game will be played on Saturday, July 6, between the “Nanum” team and the “Dream” team at Incheon SSG Landers Field in Incheon, South Korea.

KIA Tigers’ Yang Hyeon-jong Records 2,000th Strikeout – Last Thursday, Tigers left-handed starting pitcher Yang Hyeon-jong became the second hurler in KBO history to reach the 2,000-strikeout mark. Yang struck out five in the 5-4 win over the Lotte Giants.

Before Yang, the only pitcher in KBO history to reach 2,000 strikeouts was Song Jin-woo, who accomplished the feat with the Hanwha Eagles in 2008. In his 18th season in the KBO, Yang needs 46 strikeouts to surpass Song as the all-time strikeout leader in KBO history.

The Korea Times reported Tigers’ manager Lee Bum-ho handed Yang flowers in between innings to congratulate the pitcher on his accomplishment.

SSG Landers’ Choo Shin-soo Auctioning Off Game Worn MLB Jerseys – According to Yonhap News Agency, SSG Landers’ outfielder Choo Shin-soo, known by MLB fans as Shin-Soo Choo, is auctioning off his game-worn MLB jerseys to Landers fans as a part of his initiative titled “Keep the Choo.”

Choo, 41, is auctioning his game-worn jerseys from his playing days with the Seattle Mariners, Cleveland Guardians, and Texas Rangers. The SSG Landers announced on Friday that all jersey proceeds will go to charity. Choo is playing the 24th season of his professional baseball career between MLB and the KBO. He was an MLB All-Star with the Texas Rangers in 2018 and Korea Series champion with the Landers in 2022.

“These jerseys all mean a great deal to me personally,” Choo, who will retire from professional baseball at the end of the 2024 KBO season, told Yonhap News Agency. “I’ve had special moments wearing them. I’ve decided to launch this project because I wanted to share those precious moments with my fans. I hope I can make at least a small contribution to my local community.”

This Day in Korean Baseball History – On June 10, 2018, South Korean first baseman Ji-Man Choi was dealt from the Milwaukee Brewers to the Tampa Bay Rays for first baseman Brad Miller and cash considerations.

The trade was surprising, considering Choi hit a massive grand slam for the Brewers the day before in a 12-3 win against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Choi played five seasons for Tampa Bay before his trade to the Pittsburgh Pirates in November 2022.

KBO Standings as of Monday, June 10
1. LG Twins (38-26-2)
2. KIA Tigers (37-26-1)
3. Doosan Bears (37-28-2)
4. Samsung Lions (34-29-1)
5. SSG Landers (32-31-1)
6. NC Dinos (30-32-2)
7. Hanwha Eagles (27-34-2)
8. Lotte Giants (26-34-2)
9. KT Wiz (27-36-1)|
10. Kiwoom Heroes (25-37-0)

You can watch KBO games all year round on YoutubeTV.

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Conor Liguori