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How Jung Hoo Lee is learning to patrol Oracle Park’s outfield


SAN FRANCISCO — Add roaming the majors’ most difficult outfield to the list of cultural, lingual and baseball adjustments Jung Hoo Lee is facing in his transition from Korea to the major leagues.

In his second game at Oracle Park, the 25-year-old center fielder got an introduction to the unique natural elements that led Mike Yastrzemski, who knows this grass better than anyone, to distinguish the Giants’ waterfront ballpark to be “the hardest outfield to play.”

With first pitch at 6:06 p.m. Saturday, the sun was still glaring behind home plate when Padres leadoff man Xander Bogaerts lifted a pop fly to shallow center field. It should have been a routine play, but Lee lost the ball in the sun from the moment it left Bogaerts’ bat, falling to the grass for a base hit.

The misplay eventually led to all four runs in the Giants’ 4-0 loss to the Padres.

Lee later approached Yastrzemski, who said he was “pretty beaten up about it,” but the Gold Glove finalist echoed what manager Bob Melvin said after the game.

“I just told him, ‘Man, there’s nothing you can do. We’ve all lost the ball in the sun. We’ve all had that situation. Guess what, it’s going to happen again. There’s not really anything you can do,’” Yastrzemski said. “The only thing I said is to keep your head up and try figure out a way to maybe get a read on a ball before it gets to the sun so that you can hopefully be somewhere near it.”

The ballpark Lee now calls home does come with the well-known distinction around the league as one of the peskiest when it comes to the angle of the sun during late afternoon and early evening games, and he said he hoped to use the miscue as a learning opportunity.

He was wearing sunglasses, but maybe he’ll switch up the pair.

An accessory detail as minute as his eyewear is something Lee didn’t have to pay much mind to in the KBO, where he played the majority of his games indoors. The 16,744-seat Gocheok Skydome was the home ballpark of his team, the Kiwoom Heroes.

“My home stadium was a domed stadium, so I have a lot of experience in a dome and not much in a daylight time like today,” Lee said in Korean through interpreter Justin Han. “I’ll need to put in my best effort not to repeat what I did today in the field. … I don’t want to repeat my mistakes.”

Although Sunday’s series finale against the Padres marked only Lee’s third game at Oracle Park, he has already began to learn some of its other intricacies.

“I can see that the wind is hard here,” he said.

“No flag is ever blowing the right direction that the wind is actually blowing,” added Yastrzemski, who has logged thousands of innings in the outfield here since 2019, finishing as a runner-up for a Gold Glove in right field in 2021, and has even more wisdom to instill in the rookie covering the ground to his right.

“Eventually the sun’s going to shift and it’s going to be on me in right field and it won’t be on him anymore. But then you go into the wind. Then obviously the wall dimensions, the different kicks, the different angles and all the bounces the ball can take. It just takes time to get used to.”



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