Lotte has been on an unexpected tear since April. In April, Lotte went 14-8 and moved into sole possession of first place. At the center of that surge was Ahn Kwon-soo, 30, a third-generation Korean-American outfielder.
Ahn was the leadoff hitter for the Lions from the opening day, batting .318 (27-for-85) with two home runs, 12 RBIs, and four doubles in April. But in May, Ahn was unable to carry over his April momentum. The biggest factor in Ahn’s disparate April and May results is his elbow pain.
Speaking about Ahn’s recent slump before their game against Kiwoom in the ‘2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO League’ at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul 안전놀이터 on April 27, Lotte manager Larry Sutton said, “I think the reason for Ahn’s slump is elbow pain. Because he has elbow discomfort, his batting sensation may drop a bit,” he said, adding, “Nevertheless, he is showing Gold Glove-level defense when he is on the field, and he is actively running the bases. He definitely makes his presence felt at the plate,” he said, comparing Ahn to the Gold Glove awarded to the best defensive player in the major leagues.
Did he live up to his manager’s faith? Ahn batted ninth in the lineup in left field and went 4-for-4 with two doubles, two RBIs, and one run scored, with the highlight of the game coming in the top of the seventh inning when he crushed a single to left-center field to give his team a 3-0 lead. On defense, Lotte fans filled the Gocheok Dome with picturesque lake rain. The game ended in a 6-5 victory for Lotte.
After the game, Ahn Kwon-soo said, “Even though my elbow wasn’t good, I kept thinking, ‘What can I do?’ Recently, I’ve been simplifying my swing and paying a lot of attention to team batting and defense.”
Ahn Kwon-soo is also one of the best atmosphere makers on the team. She spreads positive energy to the Lotte squad with her ‘team first’ mentality. “I have to do the best I can when the team needs me more than my personal performance and results,” he said. “I will play baseball for the rest of the season, no matter what the situation is.” Ahn is still batting .205 (8-for-39) with two RBIs and five stolen bases in May, but it will be interesting to see if he can rebound from this game.