Lee Seung-yeop, better known in Korea as the Lion King, has been a fan favorite in Daegu for years. Lee played for the Samsung Lions for nine years from 1995-2003 and has returned this season after spending the last eight in Japan.
Lee is a power hitting first baseman and arguably the greatest hitter in Korean baseball history.
Prior to leaving for Japan, Lee was a five time KBO MVP (1997, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003), won two gold gloves (1998, 2000), and won two Korea Series titles (2001, 2002) all with Samsung.
He holds the Asian record for most home runs in a season with 56 in 2003. He was also the youngest player ever to hit 300 home runs at the age of 26. That is even younger than the MLB record held by Alex Rodriguez at just under 28 years old.
The stats he put up during his first run with Samsung were staggering. He drove in 100 or more runs 5 times (the KBO plays 132 game seasons). He hit 30 or more home runs 7 times including twice hitting 50 or more. He hit .300 6 times and was a lifetime .305 hitter in Korea before this season in which he hit .307.
After the 2003 season, Lee moved to Japan to play for the Chiba Lotte Marines. He got off to a slow start in Japan hitting only 14 home runs with a .240 average, but he picked it up the following year with a line of 30/82/.260 helping Chiba win the Japan Series.
His best year in Japan came in hits third year there. He moved to the Yomiuri Giants and thrived. Lee blasted 41 home runs, drove in 108 runs, and hit at a .323 clip for the season.
With the potential to leave and play for a MLB club, Lee stayed in Japan. He had another good season in 2007 but the next few were plagued by injuries. In limited duty he helped Yomiuri win the Japan Series in 2009 fulfilling a wish of his.
In his last season in Japan, Lee played for the Orix Buffaloes. There he hit just .201 with 15 home runs and 51 RBI.
There was a lot of talk that he was finished, but he decided to return to Korea signing a 1-year deal with Samsung.
This season, at the age of 36, he hit 21 home runs, drove in 85, and hit .307. He has kept it going so far in the postseason hitting a two-run home run in the bottom of the first inning of Game 1 in the 2012 Korea Series.
He is a well decorated veteran. Having won 4 titles (2 in Korea and 2 in Japan) and 2 Olympic medals including a gold at the 2008 Games in Beijing Lee is looking to add another title with Samsung this year. They lead 1-0 in the best-of-seven series.
Career Statistics in KBO
Career statistics in NPB
Photo Courtesy Korea Times
Eric Bynum is Managing Editor here at BaseballdeWorld. He spent three years as an ESL teacher in South Korea, and is now working on his master's degree in history with a focus on baseball and WWII. He has played and/or written about baseball for the past 30 years and is an avid Atlanta Braves fan.