Jung Hoo Lee is ready to begin his MLB career, and hopes his hard work and preparation this offseason can lead to success in 2024 and for years to come for him and other KBO stars.
Lee signed a six-year, $113 million contract with the Giants and was introduced to the fans in a press conference on Dec. 15 at Oracle Park. Lee then returned to South Korea where he began training for his rookie 2024 MLB season.
The 25-year-old returned stateside this week and began training for the first time at the Giants' Papago Park facility in Phoenix, AZ.
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Before arriving in the States, Lee spoke to reporters in a press conference before his flight at the Incheon International Airport about his work this offseason. (h/t Yonhap News' Jeeho Yoo)
"I've done all the work I could have done here to prepare myself," Lee said. "I just have to do some technical work outdoors. I can't wait to get to a warmer place. The team's going to let me use the facilities right away, so I will start working out there as soon as I get there."
Lee understands he will need to make adjustments early on in his MLB career, but hopes his legacy can impact future generations of Korean players.
"If I do well over there, I think other Korean players who want to go to the majors will be able to sign big deals," Lee said, adding that his ex-KBO teammate, Ha-seong Kim, blazed the trail for him with his strong showing as a Gold Glove-winning infielder for the San Diego Padres. "So I do feel a sense of responsibility in that regard. But I don't feel any pressure that I have to live up to my contract."
San Francisco Giants
"Since I've never played ball in the U.S., I can't predict how well I'll do there," he said. "My primary goal is to make adjustments. Once I grow accustomed to the new league, then I will be able to start carving out my own presence."
In speaking to reporters on Saturday at Giants Fan Fest, manager Bob Melvin expressed confidence that Lee will be ready to hit the ground running once full team workouts begin on Feb. 19.
"If he's anything like Ha-seong Kim, these guys come to spring training ready to go," Melvin said. "I had a Zoom with him about a week ago and he was ready to get off the Zoom because he was going to work out. I think based on his situation being new here, he's going to be in baseball shape ready to go once he gets here."
Lee detailed his Zoom conversation with Melvin and three Giants coaches.
"He said everyone will always be ready to help me, and I really appreciated that," Lee shared. "He said if I can get comfortable and just play the way I did in Korea, I should have similarly good results in the majors."
Lee currently is the Giants' biggest offseason acquisition, and regardless of other moves the team might make in the coming weeks, will have plenty of eyes on him with the new season right around the corner.