Sajik Stadium in Busan on the 7th, raining from early in the morning. The weather didn’t matter to Busan baseball fans. Fans of all ages dressed in Lotte Giants uniforms eagerly waited for the game to begin with umbrellas spread throughout the baseball field. The previous two matches were canceled due to rain, and it was unclear whether the match would be held on this day. When the rain cancellation was officially announced at noon, thousands of fans turned around. Their faces were full of deep regret.
In the early days of professional baseball in 2023, the ‘Busan Seagull’ Lotte Giants blast is hot. Starting with the match against Sajik KIA on April 20, Lotte ran a 9-game winning streak against KIA in Gwangju on the 2nd of this month. It has been about 14 years and 9 months since he won 11 consecutive wins from July to September 2008. By date, it was only 5358 days.
Sex followed. It ended April at the highest spot on the leaderboard for the first time in 11 years since April 30, 2012. Lotte, who kept first place until the 3rd, could not play four consecutive games due to rain, from Gwangju KIA on the 4th to Sajik Samsung on the 5th and 7th. In the meantime, it is running in second place (15-9, win rate .625) as of the 7th, giving the lead to SSG Landers, who had a winning streak.
The reason for the Lotte blast is complex. Among them, the owner’s special interest and the parent company’s active investment cannot be left out. Here’s a good example. Lotte Group Chairman Shin Dong-bin, the owner of the club, prepared a special gift for the team on the 6th. Hair styling devices and the latest headsets were delivered to a total of 54 people, including players and coaches, as well as trainers, interpreters, and training assistants. Both products are expensive products sold at around 700,000 won. Calculated at the market price, it was about 38 million won. The players each picked and received the product they wanted. “Throw, hit, and run again without regret with faith and confidence in ‘One Power’ as you do now. There was also a letter containing the affectionate sincerity of the owner, saying, “I will support and support you until the end.”
The team was very impressed. Director Larry Sutton, who received the latest headset as a gift, said, “My daughter, who is about to go to college, asked me to buy headphones a while ago, but my wife refused, saying she would buy them for Christmas or her birthday.” I have a chance to be a father,” he said and smiled broadly.
Finisher Kim Won-joong, whose trademark long hair is a trademark, chose a hair styling device as a gift. He said, “Once again, I felt that the owner cares deeply about the team,” and “I will continue to work hard to repay the support.”
This is not the first time Shin Dong-bin’s love for the baseball team. In October of last year, he personally attended the retirement ceremony of ‘Joseon’s No. 4 hitter’ Lee Dae-ho and presented a permanent missing ring to Lee Dae-ho and his wife, Shin Hye-jeong. Prior to the start of the season, he invited new players and their families to the Lotte World Tower in Jamsil to give them encouragement and presents.
He did not spare any practical support. Lotte Holdings, the parent company of the Lotte baseball team, carried out a paid-in capital increase of 19 billion won to improve the club’s financial structure. Lotte poured the funds secured through this into power reinforcement. Free agent (FA) catcher Yoo Kang-nam, infielder Noh Jin-hyuk and pitcher Han Hyun-hee were recruited to make up for the team’s weak points. They have established themselves as key members side by side and are leading the upward trend. Including the 5-year, 9 billion won multi-year contract signed with right-handed native ace Park Se-woong, Lotte poured nearly 29 billion won in this Stove League alone.
Because he is good at baseball, ‘Gu Do’ Busan is excited again. Tickets were sold out for the first time this season during the home game against Kiwoom Heroes on the 30th of last month. It was the first time that the seats at Sajik Stadium were sold out since the home game against the LG Twins on October 8 last year when Lee Dae-ho’s retirement ceremony was held.
The average number of spectators at Sajik Stadium this season is 10,307. This is a significant increase from 8,773 last year. It’s early in the season, but as Lotte’s high-altitude march continues, there is a high possibility that it will increase rapidly. It is also worth expecting that it will reproduce the 2010-11 years when the average attendance was over 20,000.
Of course, it’s still early in the season. Excitement is forbidden. Lotte has a dishonorable nickname called ‘Bomde’. It means that it sparkles in spring and then rapidly falls when the weather gets hot. There is also a modifier called ‘cherry blossom baseball’. Last year, it was 2nd at the end of April after the season opened, but the final ranking was 8th.
The Lotte players are also on the alert. Coach Sutton said, “Last year was last year, and this year is this year.” In addition, he emphasized, “The color of the team has changed from before,” and “I am confident that I will maintain steady performance as a member now.”