(Yunseo Park, Sports News Fukuoka 메이저놀이터 (Japan)) “I was so excited to watch the game from the stands of a baseball stadium for the first time.”
Lee Dae-ho threw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Fukuoka PayPay Dome on Aug. 28, when the SoftBank Hawks played the Chiba Lotte Marines.
Returning to SoftBank’s home field for the first time in eight years, Lee greeted fans on the field before the game. He then took to the mound for the ceremonial first pitch, with former championship teammates Yuki Yanakita at bat and Akira Nakamura at catcher. After the first pitch, the team took a commemorative photo together.
Speaking to the press, Lee said, “It’s nice to be invited to the ballpark. It’s nice that they haven’t forgotten about me yet. I’m very grateful that I was able to be the main character and throw the ball at such a good event.” He expressed his happiness.
Lee’s stay with SoftBank was short-lived, lasting just two years, but he had a stellar time, winning championship rings in both seasons. Lee made an impact with SoftBank, batting .292 with 50 home runs, 166 RBIs and an OPS of .858 in 285 games. Most notably, he won the Most Valuable Player (MVP) award in the 2015 Japan Series after batting .500 with two home runs and eight RBIs.
“This is the team that made it possible for me to enjoy the thrill of winning,” Lee said. There are many fans who are as passionate as our Lotte fans in Korea,” he said. “They are a very good team that is well prepared. They prepared a lot so that the players could just play baseball.”
The day before, Lee visited the Fukuoka PayPay Dome in the morning to greet his former SoftBank teammates. In the afternoon, he watched the game from the stands. It was an extra-inning game that went into the 12th inning, and he watched the players play until the end.
“Playing baseball here gives me a lot of good energy,” Lee said. I was in the stands yesterday, and it feels so good just to be in the ballpark. I think I feel even better because we won the game yesterday.”
Last year, Lee announced his retirement from active play, ending a 22-year baseball career. Even after 22 years, Lee felt a new excitement at the ballpark. “I was so excited to watch the game from the stands for the first time. From the moment I entered the stadium, I felt centered and focused. It was a strange feeling. I was used to watching the game from below, but it was strange to see it from above.”