“If the players had played well, this wouldn’t have happened…”
Lotte captain Ahn Chi-hong (33) expressed his regret over the departure of former Lotte manager Larry Sutton (53) and vowed to do his best in the remaining games under acting head coach Lee Jong-woon 메이저사이트 (57).
Ahn Chi-hong spoke to reporters shortly after the Lotte-Hanwha game was canceled due to rain at Hanwha Life Eagles Park in Daejeon on Tuesday and shared his thoughts on Sutton’s departure and his plans for the rest of the season.
Lotte announced Sutton’s voluntary resignation on the 28th, appointing head coach Lee Jong-woon as acting head coach. Sutton missed the resignation SSG game on the 27th due to dizziness and expressed his intention to resign to the club after the game.
Ahn Chi-hong, who serves as the team’s captain, had time to say goodbye to Sutton.
“I came to work early and was able to meet with Sutton for a while, and I told him thank you for all the hard work you’ve done and that I hope you take care of yourself in the future,” he said. And he also said, ‘I’m sorry that none of this would have happened if each of us, including me, had done a better job.'”
The coach is gone, but the season continues. Although Lotte is in the midst of a seven-game losing streak, they are not ready to give up just yet. The gap to fifth-place KIA is five games. Can Lotte turn things around?
“As a captain, it’s a bad situation, but we’re professional players, we still have games to play, and we still have chances, so we’re going to do our best until the end,” said Ahn Chi-hong. “First, I told the players to lift the sagging mood. “I told the players to raise their spirits first, and if they do, I think it will change the direction of the team’s play and performance.
Acting head coach Lee Jong-woon took Ahn Chi-hong aside and said, “Everyone on the team needs to get through this. Let’s get the senior players together and raise the mood again,” he said. “Let’s just think about winning. We still have a chance and let’s do the best we can. Let’s show the younger players that they can follow in our footsteps.”
Ahn Chi-hong (left) and former Lotte manager Larry Sutton ⓒByun Hye-mi Reporter
Lotte’s Ahn Chi-hong slides into first base. Byun Hye-mi Reporter
Lotte was on a roll until early June, but since then, the team has fallen into a deep slump from which it has yet to emerge.
“Over the course of a season, you’re bound to have winning streaks and losing streaks,” said Ahn Chi-hong, “and we’ve seen a lot of inactivity from the players as they’re under pressure for results. Despite talking to each other a lot, I think each player has a little fear of the outcome. “In April and May, we played without fear of the outcome, so I think it was a good result. You might think it’s too late now, but I want to break that fear and play the rest of the season.”
Lee Jong-woon pointed to Ahn Chi-hong and other senior players such as Jeon Jun-woo and Jeong Hoon as key players for the rest of the season. Ahn Chi-hong, who had a rough July with a .255 batting average with one home run and seven RBIs, has shown signs of regaining his batting touch, exploding for a .371 batting average with three home runs and 12 RBIs in August.
He’s already rebounded on his own. “I had a bad at-bat before where I didn’t have a good feel for the ball, so I was just swinging confidently and not thinking about the outcome, and I thought, ‘Let’s not miss a pitch,’ and it turned into a good hit. Now I’m trying to maintain it,” Ahn said. Like Ahn, if Lotte’s players rebound one by one, it could lead to a major upset.
Ahn is already in his fourth season with Lotte. After batting .286 with a .351 on-base percentage and .413 slugging percentage in 124 games in 2020, his first season with Lotte, Ahn hit .306 with a .379 on-base percentage and .458 slugging percentage in 119 games in 2021, with 10 home runs, 82 RBIs, and three doubles, and continued to hit consistently last year, batting .284 with a .354 on-base percentage and .436 slugging percentage in 132 games, with 14 home runs, 58 RBIs, and seven doubles. This year, he’s batting .297 with a .380 on-base percentage and .398 slugging percentage in 101 games with six home runs, 53 RBIs, and three doubles. He will be eligible for free agency again after this season.
“Of course, it’s an important season for me personally,” Ahn said, “but since I’m the captain, I think I’m thinking more about the team and how we can move forward. I don’t mean that in an empty way, but I want to do my best for the team’s performance until the end,” he said, adding that the team’s rebound is the first thing on his mind.
Ahn Chi-hong ⓒKyun Hye-mi Reporter
Ahn Chi-hong ⓒKyung Hye-mi Reporter