He leaves with unforgettable memories. Ahn Kwon-soo (30, Lotte), a third-generation Korean-American, said goodbye to his four-year KBO career.
Ahn Kwon-soo started in left field against Daejeon Hanwha on April 16, going 1-for-5 with one RBI. He struck out in his first four at-bats, but with runners on first and second in the eighth inning, he pulled a six-pitch slider from Hanwha closer Park Sang-won for a single to right. He followed with an RBI single to center field to bring home Park Seung-wook, who was pinch-hitting for the second outfielder, in his farewell at-bat in Korea.
As he walked into the third base dugout after the inning, Ahn took off his helmet and responded to the cheers of the Lotte fans. On the occasion of his farewell game, he said, “I love you. Lotte Giants fans,” and played in protective gear emblazoned with the words “I love you,” as Lotte went on to win the season finale 7-2.
Born and raised in Japan, Ahn played in the independent leagues after graduating from Japan’s prestigious Waseda University. He then decided to try his hand at professional baseball in his grandfather’s country, South Korea. After a tryout in 2019, he was selected by Doosan in the 10th round (99th overall) of the 2020 rookie draft.
He played three years with Doosan, until 2022, and was a solid backup. However, as a third-generation Korean-American, military service was a factor. Under the Military Service Act, which states that second-generation overseas Koreans lose their overseas status if they stay in Korea for more than three years, Ahn had to enlist in the military and fulfill his military obligations by the end of 2023 if he wanted to continue his commercial career as a professional athlete in South Korea.
Ahn Kwon-soo has a wife and a newborn son in Japan. It was a difficult choice for him to leave his family behind and join the army. With time running out, Ahn was released from Doosan. He thought about going back to Japan and doing something else, but Lotte decided to use him for the rest of the year. He was given the gift of a year.
It was a season with a deadline, but Ahn left a lasting impression on Lotte. He took over the leadoff spot in the lineup from the start of the season in April, batting .318 and becoming the centerpiece of the Lotte surge. He was always smiling and shouting at the top of his lungs, creating a great atmosphere. She helped younger players like Yoon Dong-hee and Kim Min-seok grow as a friend and senior.
Ahn Kwon-soo was included in the preliminary roster for the Hangzhou Asian Games, raising hopes that he could extend his career in Korea with the benefit of military service. However, pain in his right elbow slowed him down from May, and he was forced to withdraw on June 8 after undergoing surgery to remove bone fragments. His Asian Games dreams were dashed. He returned on July 30 after rehabilitation, but Lotte’s performance plummeted in the meantime, and fall baseball was far away. After his return, he struggled to find his hitting touch for a while.
LOTTE acting head coach Lee Jong-woon said about Ahn Kwon-soo, “After the surgery, my pace dropped completely. He struggled because he couldn’t find his form, but when his arm recovered normally, he showed good form again.” “It’s too bad because he wants to play baseball (in Korea) more. He brought a lot of energy to our team.”먹튀검증
After rebounding to a triple-digit (.316) batting average since September, Ahn finished the year with a 2.669 average (72-for-268), two home runs, 29 RBIs and 16 stolen bases in 95 games. In his four seasons in the KBO, Ahn is batting .275 (163-for-586) with two home runs, 56 RBIs and 24 stolen bases in 326 games.
After going 0-for-5 against Doosan on Nov. 11, his final home game, Ahn broke down in tears as he bade farewell to the Busan home fans after the game. He smiled and greeted them with a goodbye hit in his final game in Daejeon.
After the game, Ahn Kwon-soo said, “Like the last game at home, I felt a little dry today, but I finished the season in a good mood with my last hit.” He added, “Even when I go back to Japan, I will still think about baseball in Korea. It was a really precious time. If you come to play again, I will welcome you again. Thank you very much,” he concluded. Ahn Kwon-soo will depart for Japan on the 20th of this month after completing all his schedules as a KBO player.