Acting Lotte Giants manager Lee Jong-woon was resilient in the face of a sudden change in position. Although he is confused in many ways, he made it clear that he will not stop challenging for fall baseball until the end of the season for the sake of the fans.
“Some people say we don’t have many games left, but I think we can still make it (to the postseason),” Lee Jong-woon said shortly after the rainout of the 11th game of the 2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO League against the Hanwha Eagles at Hanwha Life Eagles Park in Daejeon on Sept. 29. “I also told the players to give their best until the end of every game.”
Lee Jong-woon changed his position from first team coach to acting head coach on the afternoon of June 28. It was just two months after he was promoted to head coach from Future Team manager on June 27, and he was given the responsibility of leading the team’s coaching staff and the entire squad.
Former Lotte coach Larry Sutton tendered his resignation to the club late at night on June 27. Sutton, who had been sent home from two recent games after complaining of dizziness just before the game, said that he was unable to fulfill his duties as head coach due to his current physical condition.
Sutton lived the “Korean Dream” during his playing days with the Hyundai Unicorns (disbanded), becoming the first foreign left-handed hitter to win the home run title in 2005. After retiring from the game, he began his coaching career in the American minor leagues. He was named Lotte’s second team manager for the 2020 season, where he was in charge of developing young players, and the following May, he took over as the first team manager, a position that became vacant following the dismissal of former manager Heo Moon-ho.
However, Sutton’s tenure as Lotte’s head coach was not a smooth one. The team finished eighth in both the 2021 and 2022 seasons, and while they cruised to third place through May this season, they suffered a sharp drop in June. After failing to rebound in the second half, Lotte is now in seventh place with 50 wins and 58 losses and a 0.463 winning percentage, five games behind the fifth-place KIA Tigers.
Lee Jong-woon bowed his head, repeatedly saying, “I’m sorry to the manager,” as he admitted that he hadn’t been able to properly support Sutton as head coach. “We are all responsible for his sudden resignation,” he emphasized.
However, the team is not ready to give up the chase for fifth place. “The players should also take the current situation seriously,” said Lee Jong-woon. “I think the players know what they need to do in the future,” said Lee Jong-woon, adding, “It’s not the coach’s responsibility alone.
“We’ve had a lot of losing streaks, but we’ve also had a lot of winning streaks. In the meeting, I asked them to do their best in every game for the sake of the fans,” he said. “It’s a bit embarrassing to suddenly become the head coach and take over as the acting first-team coach, but someone has to play this role. I also have the idea that the players can do well in the future.”
Lee Jong-woon is no stranger to the role of acting first-team coach. He was appointed as Lotte’s 16th head coach after the end of the 2014 season and led the team for a year in the 2015 season. Although he was fired in the first year of his three-year contract after the team finished eighth in the 2015 season, he returned to coach the Future Team this year before taking over as acting first-team coach at the end of the second half to help Lotte to victory.토토사이트
Lee Jong-woon said, “The fact that I was the first-team coach in the past is meaningless now. Now, as the acting head coach, I have to focus on helping the team break the losing streak and turn the tide.” “The first team head coach position is not filled by another coach. I’ve done a good job with the current coaching staff since I’ve been the head coach, so it makes sense to keep it that way.”