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Park Byung-ho becomes first KBO player with back-to-back 50-homer seasons

September 21, 2015
Park Byung-ho of the Nexen Heroes hits his 50th home run of the 2015 Korea Baseball Organization season against the NC Dinos in Changwon, South Korea, on Sept. 21, 2015. (Yonhap)

Park Byung-ho of the Nexen Heroes hits his 50th home run of the 2015 Korea Baseball Organization season against the NC Dinos in Changwon, South Korea, on Sept. 21, 2015. (Yonhap)

CHANGWON, South Korea, Sept. 21 (Yonhap) — Park Byung-ho of the Nexen Heroes on Monday became the first South Korean baseball player with back-to-back 50-homer seasons.

Park, one of the most feared sluggers in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), launched his 50th home run of the season, a solo shot in the fourth inning against the NC Dinos here in Changwon, South Gyeongsang Province.

Batting cleanup and starting at first base, Park struck out on three pitches against NC starter Lee Tae-yang in his first at-bat in the first inning. But the slugger got the better of the right-hander, hammering the first-pitch fastball over the left field for the milestone home run.

The home run was Park’s only hit in his four at-bats, but he drove in his second run of the night with a sacrifice fly in the fifth to help the Heroes to a 4-1 victory over the Dinos, snapping NC’s winning streak at seven. It was only Nexen’s third win over NC in 15 meetings this season.

Park hit 52 in 128 games last season. The KBO expanded to 144 games this year, and this is Park’s 130th game in 2015.

The 29-year-old had 31 home runs in 133 games in 2012, and 37 in 128 games in 2013.

Only two other KBO players have hit at least 50 homers in a season. Lee Seung-yuop of the Samsung Lions hit 54 in 1999 and 56 in 2003. Also in 2003, Shim Chong-soo, then playing for the Hyundai Unicorns, hit 53.

Lee’s 56 from 2003 stands as the KBO’s single-season record. Park, who played in every game from 2012 to 2014, has missed four games in 2015. The Heroes have 10 games remaining after Monday.

With the home run, Park also set a record for most total bases in a season with 358, surpassing Lee’s mark of 356 in 1999.

Park was voted the KBO’s MVP in 2012 and 2013, and finished second in the voting in 2014. He will contend for the award again this year, as the KBO’s leader in home runs, RBIs and total bases. He’s also in the top five in batting average, runs scored, hits, on-base percentage and slugging percentage.

With the Heroes’ blessing, Park can be posted for interested Major League Baseball clubs after this season. Scouts from more than a dozen big league clubs have seen Park play this year on several occasions.

Park is represented by Octagon, the U.S.-based agency that works with Kang Jung-ho of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Kang, a former Nexen teammate of Park’s, joined the Pirates via posting last winter, becoming the first South Korean position player to jump from the KBO to MLB.

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    September 14, 2017 at 1:47 PM

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