‘Please call me Junster Geun-ri,’ Lotte’s 4-hole catcher says “the biggest change is mental”

Lotte Giants outfielder Lee Jung-geun is having an incredible season.

On Tuesday, the outfielder started at No. 8 in the lineup against the Kiwoom Heroes of the 2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO League at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul, South Korea, and went 4-for-3 with a home run, one RBI, and one run scored.

After joining Lotte in the ninth round (83rd overall) of the 2018 Rookie Draft, Lee was recognized for his defense, but his bat always held him back. In his KBO career, he batted .249 메이저놀이터(93-for-443) with two home runs, 34 RBIs, and a .532 OPS in 249 games, and last season he batted just .191 (38-for-199) with one home run, 15 RBIs, and a .466 OPS in 95 games.

This year, however, Shin has completely transformed his bat. In 43 games this season, he is batting 4-for-26 (61 RBI) with one home run, 13 RBI, and a 1.121 OPS. In his last 10 games, he is 5-for-8 (14-for-26).

Lotte Giants Info. /OSEN DB

In an interview on the 19th, Lee said, “It feels really good to be liked by the fans. I’m always grateful,” he smiled.

When asked about the secret to his good performance at the plate, Lee said, “I think the biggest change is mental.” He added, “I try to be more relaxed and not think about my record. Last year, I just followed the ball wherever I saw it, but this year I’m trying to hit only the balls I know I can hit well. I think I’m getting good results because I’m thinking about what I can do well and keeping things simple.”

Lee hit the game-winning two-run home run against the league’s strongest ace, Eric Peddy, in the NC on the 2nd. Since then, he’s been hitting better, going 5-for-9 (18-for-34) with one home run and nine RBIs in 15 games in August. “I was confident before that, but I think I became more confident after that home run,” he said. “Hearing the fans’ cheers grow louder during my recent at-bats, I can feel that their expectations for me have also grown.”

Lotte Giants’ Lee Jung-geun. /OSEN DB

Lotte fans have nicknamed him “Buster Bo-geun” after Buster Posey, one of the best catchers in Major League Baseball, for his hot hitting. “I think it’s a nickname I don’t deserve,” he laughed, “but I’m really grateful to be called that. It’s always nice to be called something that means something good, and I’m always grateful,” he said, thanking his fans.

When asked about his favorite major league catcher, he said, “I liked Buster Posey. I also liked Yadier Molina. I would love to be able to hit like Posey and play defense like Molina.” Posey and Molina were two of the most dominant catchers in the National League in the 2010s. Posey won the National League MVP in 2012 and is a five-time Silver Slugger winner (2012, 2014-2015, 2017, 2021). Molina is one of the best defensive catchers in the majors, having won the Gold Glove nine times (2008, 2015, 2018). Posey was also a very good defensive catcher, but he only won the Gold Glove once, in 2016, because of Molina’s presence.

“As my hitting improved, I became more confident in my defense. I always play with the mindset that a catcher’s defense comes first,” he said, adding that he hopes to lead Lotte as a catcher.

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