A little over a month ago the Mariners let Dae-Ho Lee go via free agency. In the past few days, it has come out that Lee and fellow Korean baseball players, Seung-hwan Oh and Shin-Soo Choo have co-authored a book in South Korea entitled, “Thanks, baseball”. Yet, it is Mariners fans who should be thanking Lee for what he brought to the M’s in his lone year with the club.
When GM Jerry Dipoto initially brought Lee to Seattle on a minor league deal, he had this to say:
Dipoto nailed it on the head. Lee had been a great talent over the decade and a half he played between the Nippon Professional Baseball League and the Korean Baseball Organization.
Lee had two hundred and twenty-five home runs in eleven seasons with the KBO Lotte Giants. In seven of those eleven campaigns, he hit over twenty long bombs. He even hit forty-four in 2010 alone, which, if you’re taking notes, is still the eighth most anybody has hit in one season in the KBO.
That year Lee also won the KBO League Most Valuable Player Award because he added one hundred and thirty-three RBI and a batting average of .364 on top of his home runs total.
Fast forward back to 2016, the potbellied jolly slugger was ready to start the next phase of his career, and so were the fans. Many people were eagerly awaiting his first at-bat, not just to see what this Korean star had to offer, but they wanted to bring back the “Day-O” chants, only slightly altering the pronunciation to work with Lee’s name.
It didn’t take long to get fans in a Dae-ho loving mood. Not even two weeks into the season, Lee hit his first MLB walk-off to defeat the division rival Texas Rangers 4-2 in the bottom of the tenth.
Less than a month later, we would watch Lee’s belly jiggle around the base paths after he smacked his second home run of the May 3rd game against the Mariners other division rivals, the Oakland Athletics. The dinger capped a five-run comeback, but it wouldn’t be the biggest impact he would make in a 2016 comeback.
About one more month, Lee and the Mariners were down 12-2 against the San Diego Padres. After a Kyle Seager double that cut the lead to 12-4, Lee provided the first major shot of the comeback that gave Mariners fans hope that their team could overcome a ten run deficit.
In a mid-August affair with yet another division rival, the Los Angeles Angels, the Mariners
Edwin Diaz was having trouble closing out the win. In steps Kyle Seager and Dae-Ho Lee.
The Angels had already squeezed out a run against Diaz and were ready to take the lead in the bottom of the ninth with the bases loaded and two outs.
Diaz proceeded to induce a groundball off the bat of Andrelton Simmons, but it was frantically skipping along the third base line and heading for the outfield meadow.
Like a lion on the hunt, Seager instinctually dove full-extension to grab the ball as if it were a fleeting gazelle. He quickly rose to his feet and through a bouncing zinger across the diamond heading for Lee.
Lee gracefully completed an extremely challenging scoop as the ball was skipping off the grass before Simmons could reach first for the final out.
With the win, the Mariners stood just three games back in the Wild Card with only the placeholders ahead of them. Sadly, we know that this win didn’t help the Mariners into the playoffs, but we do know that it was one of the more exciting plays by any teammates all season long.
Overall, Lee had more memorable moments in a Mariners uniform in just one season than most former M’s had in their career. He will be greatly missed for his attitude, hard work (even through slumps), and the many jaw-dropping plays he was a part of. For all of that and more, Mariners fans thank you, Dae-Ho Lee, for letting them be part of your world, even if it was just for a year.