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Soo-keun Jung

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Soo-keun Jung

  • Bats Left, Throws Left
  • Height 5' 10", Weight 172 lb.

Soo-keun Jung won four consecutive Korea Baseball Organization stolen base titles and also two KBO Gold Gloves in a career that has lasted 15 years. He also played in the Olympics. 10 times in his career, he stole 20 bases and he topped 40 7 times. He has had numerous run-ins with the law and was once suspended for a year.

Jung debuted in 1995 with the OB Bears, hitting .214/.309/.247 but stealing 25 bases in 117 games (154 AB). In 1996, the 19-year-old batted .253/.319/.324 with 43 steals. The next year, he hit .263/.349/.319 and swiped 50 bases. Jong-beom Lee beat him out for the SB lead both years.

In 1998, the youngster produced at a .288/.362/.379 clip and also won his first SB title, aided by the departure of Jong-beom Lee to Japan. He stole 44 in 57 tries, hit 11 triples and also scored 88 runs. The team became the Doosan Bears in 1999. Jung won his first Gold Glove in the outfield that year and also hit .325/.408/.424. He stole 57 bases in 67 tries and scored 100 runs (still 28 behind leader Seung-yeop Lee) in what was probably his best year overall. He won his second stolen-base crown. He finished 10th in average, two points behind Felix Jose. He then appeared on the Gold Medal-winning Korean team in the 1999 Asian Championship.

Jung kept on running in 2000, when he swiped 47 bases while only getting caught 7 times. It matched the lowest caught-stealing total for the KBO SB leader to that point, with CS data missing for one year. At the plate, he hit .277/.341/.353 and he scored 82 runs. He also spent time with the Korean national team for the 2000 Olympics. He batted .273/.400/.318, was error-free in 9 games in center field and stole six bases in six tries. Through 2004, Jung is one of two players with two multiple-steal games in the Olympics; Calvin Murray (1992) is the other. His six steals led the 2000 Games and were the third-most in Olympic history following Murray (9 in 1992) and Michael Tucker (7 in 1992). The South Korean team beat archrivals Japan for the Bronze Medal.

Taking his second Gold Glove and fourth stolen-base title in 2001, Jung also batted .306/.395/.403 with 9 triples and 95 runs. He stole 52 bases in 63 attempts. He was 12 runs behind leader Byung-kyu Lee. During the 2001 Baseball World Cup, Jung produced a .440/.481/.440 batting line, though he was thrown out in 2 of 5 steal attempts.

Jung slumped the next year, only hitting .235/.310/.286 with 40 steals in 2002. He was 10 steals behind league leader Jong-kook Kim. In his final season with Doosan, the left-handed batter hit .321/.384/.385 with 15 SB in 89 games. He got into a fight while the team was training in Hawaii and was penalized $450.

A free agent, Jung signed with the Lotte Giants for 4 billion won over six years. In his first year with the club, he batted .257/.347/.332 with 24 SB in 92 games. He also won the Korea Baseball Organization All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Award that year. He also was arrested, banned from play for 7 games and fined $2,400 after trying to hit someone in Busan with a bat.

He batted .286/~.376/.354 and stole 21 bases in 109 games. Through 2005, he ranked 29th in the KBO in career games played (1,261), 27th in hits (1,205), 16th in runs (717), tied for fourth in triples (48), 25th in BB+HBP (546) and was third in steals (418), trailing only Joon-ho Jun and Jong-beom Lee.

In 2006, the veteran hit .285/~.345/.359 with 19 steals in 83 games. The next season, he batted .293/~.372/.408 and stole 10 bases. He won All-Star Game MVP honors again. He started 2008 by batting .291/~.392/.343 after 80 games, swiping 24 in 37 tries. He was then suspended indefinitely in mid-July after allegedly beating up a janitor in his Busan apartment building and a policeman while drunk.

Jung's career line through July 2008 was .281/~.361/.356 with 471 stolen bases.

On June 11, 2009, the KBO lifted Jung's suspension, effective July 28. He hit .237/.292/.288 in 15 games with 3 steals, then was found half-naked, drunk and swearing in a bar on August 31. That earned him his release by Lotte.

Sources: KBO player page, Defunct IBAF website, KBO single-season leaders, KBO career leaders, Korean wikipedia, Article mentioning Jung's signing with Lotte, Korea Times article on Jung's suspension in 2008, Korea Times article on Jung's release in 2009

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