Unsung hero Lee Ji-young (36, Kiwoom), who led Kiwoom Heroes to runner-up, was rewarded for his dedication and outstanding performance with the highest salary this season, in his 16th year as a professional since his debut.
Kiwoom Heroes (CEO Jae-min Wi) announced on the 20th that it had completed an annual salary contract with all 51 people eligible for annual salary contracts for the 2023 season (excluding rookies, fostering, military reserve, free agents, and foreign players).
Immediately after the announcement of the annual salary, the one that received the most attention was Lee Jeong-hoo (24), who signed a contract for the 2023 season with the highest annual contract salary of 1.1 billion won, excluding returns from overseas and non-FA multi-year return contracts. Also, Ahn Woo-jin (24), who played an active role as the team ace, drew attention by recording the highest increase rate by stamping for 350 million won, an increase of 200 million won (133.3%) from 150 million won.
However, among the 51 contracted players, there was an equally meaningful salary negotiation, and it was Lee Ji-young. Lee Ji-young, whose free agent contract expired at the end of last season, signed a contract for 500 million won, up 200 million won (66.7%) from the previous year.
It is a rare case in which the salary has increased rather than the free agency season even though the free agency has ended. At the same time, the annual salary of 500 million won is Lee Ji-young’s highest annual salary in a single season, including all free agency seasons. After making her professional debut as a foster player for the Samsung Lions in 2008, this year is her 16th year as a pro, a veteran who has played in 1,189 games, but this is the first season in which Lee Ji-young received an annual salary of more than 500 million won.
That’s why his contribution to the team was high. In 137 games last season, Lee Ji-young recorded a batting average of 0.267/2 homers/38 runs/37 RBIs, playing a significant role in the lower batting order. He contributed more in defense than offense. He wore a catcher’s mask for 994.2 innings, the second most after Yoo Kang-nam (1008.1 innings), who signed a large free agent contract with the Lotte Giants for 4 years and a total of 8 billion won in the league. 메이저사이트
Lee Ji-young’s performance continued in PS as well. Lee Ji-young wore a starting mask in all 15 PS games of Kiwoom, and only defensive innings reached 130 innings. Including the regular season, he was responsible for Kiwoom’s home for a whopping 1124.2 innings.
In addition, Lee Ji-young recorded a stealing rate of 34%, which was 6th in the league last season, and a defense win contribution to average (WAA) of 1.001, which is 1st in the catcher category (based on stats). He evenly raised indicators to the top in all categories, including pitcher lead, blocking, and runner check, and played a strong role as a homemaker.
For this reason, Kiwoom Heroes coach Hong Won-ki referred to Lee Ji-young several times as an ‘unsung hero’ when the team was doing well, or when they defeated opponents one after another in the postseason and went up to the Korean Series.
Recognition for Lee Ji-young’s performance is not limited to just within the team. Lee Ji-young was selected as one of the two national catcher entries for the World Baseball Classic (WBC) to be held this March and was given the Taegeuk mark. This is also meaningful as it is the first time since his professional debut that he has been assigned an important role as a backup for Yang Eui-ui (Doosan), the first certified KBO top catcher.
Lee Ji-young, whom I met during the postseason, said, “It doesn’t make sense that my physical abilities decline just because I get older. He just needs to build his body according to his age,” he said. “Compared to 2021, this year (2022), I lost about 6 to 7 kg. He’s still trying to keep up the pace. Although he is old, he seems to have broadened his eyes for baseball while maintaining his physical ability.”
He himself did not express his own efforts more, but Lee Ji-young was also a player who was a symbol of ‘sincerity’ and ‘effort’. At Samsung, he struggled to seize opportunities through hard work while competing with the best catchers in the league at the time, such as Jin Gap-yong and Kang Min-ho.
The flowers are beautiful even if they bloom late. If the process of effort was a time of endurance, the beauty and scent would last longer.