“I’m trying to act like a rookie” Lee Jung-hoo, the team’s highest-paid player

“I try to act like a rookie.”

These are the words of Japanese superstar Ohtani in Major League Baseball. On the 10th of this month (KST), Ohtani made his first appearance at the Los Angeles Dodgers’ spring training camp, Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Arizona, and made a splash with his comments. Ohtani shocked the world by signing the largest free agent contract in Major League Baseball history, a jaw-dropping 10-year, $700 million deal. “That’s Ohtani,” we said, as the seemingly unstoppable superstar humbly offered to act like a rookie.

I heard it again. At San Francisco Giants spring training. Lee signed a massive six-year, $113 million contract with San Francisco. He started his first official workout at Scottsdale Stadium on the 20th, and afterward, he cautiously said, “I’m trying to act like a rookie.” Why did he say that?

Lee could have joined the Brewers on the day of his official call-up. But he started training on the 15th, when the two-catcher group was called up. It was to adjust to the new stage and new teammates.

In a way, Lee can take it easy. He’s the highest paid player on the team. From the first day of camp, manager Bob Melvin nailed it down: “He’s going to be the No. 1 starter.” In the world of the major leagues, where salaries are hierarchical, anything he does is understood, as long as it’s not too out of the ordinary.

But for Lee, the major leagues are an unfamiliar and unknown world. “I was also embarrassed to have the press in the clubhouse,” he says, “and the American players were so bold in taking off their clothes even when there were female reporters. I was really surprised at first.”

“It’s said that major league training is easy, but that’s not true at all. It’s harder than the Korean camp.” Even on the first day of official training, he went straight into live batting. The schedule was nonstop, including live batting, outdoor batting cage training, and indoor batting practice. Lee Jung-hoo was busy moving around the field, asking through an interpreter, “Where should I go this time?”

The major leagues also play a lot of exhibition games. Starting on May 25 against the Chicago Cubs, the team will play nearly a month without a break. “At first, this schedule was strange to me,” says Lee. In Korea, we usually get together as a group to build up our bodies at the beginning and gradually increase the intensity of our training. But here, we played live batting on the first day we got together, and then we played exhibition games. I think it’s a feeling of building up through matches. In Korea, when there is a camp practice game, the training intensity is reduced, but it’s not like that here. We train normally and go to the game during the day. I don’t think it will be hard.”

He’s heard about it, he’s speculated about it, but he’s never experienced it. He doesn’t even know if he’s playing in the opening game of an exhibition game right now, and he doesn’t know what his training schedule is for the next day until the afternoon before. That’s the major league system. “I still have no idea how the team and the league work or what to expect, so I try to act like a rookie,” Lee explained.

That’s why Lee has Major League Baseball senior Kim Ha-seong (San Diego) to look up to. “He’s been giving me advice, like not to push myself too hard, to keep an eye on things, and not to go to work too early in the morning,” Lee said.

Still, with exhibition games and the start of the regular season approaching, Lee is excited. “It’s a prestigious team. And they’re even. The stadium is beautiful. The Giants have a great name,” he said. The Giants won the championship in 2010, 2012, and 2014, creating the “even number jinx.


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