Choi Ji-Man (32) had a successful debut for the San Diego Padres. The Korean duo of Kim Ha-seong (28) also performed well.
Choi was named to the starting lineup as the No. 7 designated hitter in the 2023 Major League Baseball (MLB) home game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Petco Park in San Diego, California, on Friday (June 5). It was his first game in San Diego in three days.
He struck out in his first at-bat in the bottom of the second inning. Choi worked a full count against Dodgers starter Bobby Miller, but a 100.8-mile-per-hour sinker up and away six pitches later sent him back to the dugout.
However, he continued to contribute to the team’s offense. In the bottom of the fourth inning, Choi calmly picked the ball off the ground with one out after Bogart’s infield single. He then advanced to third on a single by Luis Camposano and a grounder to second by Trent Grisham, and scored on a wild pitch by catcher Will Smith. After crossing home plate, Choi celebrated by high-fiving Kim Ha-seong.
In the bottom of the sixth, Choi drew another walk. Camposano then singled and Grisham followed with an RBI single. San Diego took a 3-1 lead into the bottom of the seventh inning. Choi was replaced by pinch-hitter Garrett Cooper in the bottom of the eighth to close out the game.
On the day, Choi went 1-for-3 with a walk, a hit, a strikeout, and two strikeouts to complete his multi-hit performance. His season OPS rose to .741. Although the team lost the game 5-10, scoring a whopping eight runs in the eighth and ninth innings, Choi continued to impress at the plate. He also became the second Korean big leaguer ever to appear in the starting lineup at the same time as Kim, joining Bae Ji-hwan (24) in Pittsburgh.
Choi, who wore a Pittsburgh Pirates uniform prior to this season, was sent to San Diego in a two-for-three trade with left-hander Rich Hill (43) on Feb. 2. Choi’s presence was important for the Dodgers, who have weaknesses at first base and the designated hitter position.
Jake Cronenwirth, who was moved to first base behind Xander Bogaerts and Ha-Sung Kim, is hitting a dismal .221 with eight home runs for a corner infielder. Add to that the fact that Matt Carpenter and Nelson Cruz are underperforming at the designated hitter spot.
As early as July, the local media was speculating about Choi’s possible move to San Diego. On July 22, Sports Illustrated’s “Inside the Padres” listed catcher, middle infield, and first base as San Diego’s top three needs, identifying Choi as a potential first baseman.
However, not many people were convinced that Kim and Choi would end up together. Not even Choi himself. In an interview with Marty Caswell’s YouTube channel, which specializes in San Diego news, Choi said, “We talked about it (playing together) a week ago as a joke, and it felt good to make it a reality.”
Kim Ha-seong also welcomed his Korean counterpart. “I was very happy that a Korean player was coming, and I was even happier that (Choi) brought his brother in a trade to help the team win in the end,” he said. “The team and the players are so good that I think it would be a good synergy to have my brother here,” he said after Choi’s signing was finalized.
Choi is no stranger to the big game, having played in the World Series (2020) with Tampa Bay in the past. “We were in the playoffs every year,” he said. It’s great to be here (in San Diego). The weather is great, the players are great, and I think we’ll get along pretty quickly.”메이저놀이터
“The fans in San Diego like Koreans a lot,” said Kim Ha-seong, who hasn’t been close to Choi, “and I hope they’ll make him feel the same way.”