Hitting coach recalls, 329 home run legend hit 7 times.

“I think the 2017 team is the best team ever, ever, ever.”

Hitting coach Lee Bum-ho (43) of the KIA Tigers was a member of the 2017 pennant race and Korean Series champions. In 115 games, he hit .272 with 25 home runs, 89 RBIs, and 57 runs scored. With Lee batting seventh in the lineup, KIA literally had a “bare bones” lineup.

Hitting coach Lee Bum-ho appeared on the YouTube channel Baseball Jjim, hosted by former KIA player Seo Dong-wook and comedian Kim Tae-won, on Saturday and talked about various KIA topics. The recording took place in December of last year, so they didn’t discuss the “storm signing” that took place in January.

However, at the time of the recording, there were still high expectations for KIA in 2024. There was already a consensus that the strength of each part of the organization would be at the top of the league once the foreign pitching variable was resolved. As an active player at the time, and now as a first-team hitting coach and leader of hitters, I’d take the 2017 lineup over the 2024 lineup in a heartbeat.

Coach Lee said, “I think the 2017 team is the best (KIA) team ever.” He then shared an anecdote. “In 2016, I hit 30 home runs and 100 RBIs (batting .310 with 33 home runs and 108 RBIs), and then the next year, Coach Kim Ki-tae called me back,” Lee said.

Kim Ki-tae said, “Hit me seven times,” to Lee Bum-ho. “In 2016, I hit 30 home runs and 100 RBIs in 3-for-30, and you want me to hit 7? I’m like, ‘Wow, XX, what is this?’ But the hitters in front of me all hit 3-for-3. (Lee) Myung-gi, (Kim) Joo-chan, Roger (Bernardina), (Choi) Hyung-woo, (Na) Ji-wan, (Ahn) Chi-hong, me, (Kim) Min-sik, and (Kim) Sun-bin. After that, I was like, ‘Oh yeah, I’m the number 7.

In reality, the KIA bats hit .302 with an OPS of .839 as a team in 2017. Despite a relatively shaky bullpen, the team won the title with a nuclear bat and a solid starting lineup. Of course, Coach Lee Bum-ho wasn’t around for the 2009 championship, but it’s clear that the 2017 roster is the best roster and the strongest roster in KIA history.

However, there are still high hopes for the current KIA. “We had the highest team batting average in 2022 and the second highest team batting average in 2023, but baseball is not just about hitting. It was a very good season, but other teams were too good. To go plus four (73 wins, 69 losses, and 2 draws) and lose…” Lee said.

He also called on the fans. “I know KIA fans are very upset, so I feel sorry for them, but it’s very important whether we make the top five or not. But when I look at the team, it means that the future is bright. I think we’re going to be able to play the kind of baseball that our fans want to see this season. That we can go in a good direction. It’s worth it…” he said.

“When that day comes in 2017, KIA will be on a winning streak for several years,” said Coach Lee Bum-ho. If we pick a good foreign pitcher and don’t get injured, it’s not impossible to make a lot of ramen noodles in the off-season.


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