If you’ve been to any games at Safeco Field recently, you probably noticed that nothing gets the crowd more excited than the “Day-O” chant, a sample from a Harry Bellefonte song that has been staple of ballgames for years.
But now it has taken on a new meaning.
With the introduction of Dae-ho Lee to the Mariners lineup in 2016, Seattle fans have come to love the giant first baseman. Every time he comes to the plate the stadium PA puts on the famous chant and the crowd cheerfully replaces Day-O with Dae Ho loud enough for the people watching on TV to hear and participate.
He’s not just a cool name though, Dae-ho has been a massive addition to the lineup adding a variety of clutch home runs. Following Monday’s game against San Diego he is now hitting .273 with 7 HR and 16 RBI in only 79 plate appearances. As only half of a first base platoon, that is pretty good. But yeah, the name is fun too.
Here is the path that Dae-Ho took to get to his current beloved status.
Lee got started in the KBO (South Korea) in 2001 for the Lotte Giants as an effective pitcher before an injury caused him to move to being a position player. His bat flourished earning him a triple crown in 2006 with a .336 batting average 26 HR and 88 RBI. In 2010 he set the world record of hitting a home run in 9 straight games passing Seattle’s own Ken Griffey Jr and Don Mattingly who both had 8. After moving to the NPB (Japan) he also had a successful hitting career including an exciting home run derby win against Mariners legend Wladmir Balentein in 2012 by a score of 6-0.
In a recent Reddit AMA, current Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto had this to say about how Dae-Ho lee was acquired:
“Our relationship with Dae-Ho began in late 2015. He was over here working out at our facilities in Peoria so we had an opportunity to see him after the Japan series. He made his home at our facility and got to know our people. We got to see him every day. Through a variety of discussions through his agent, once we found common ground, it was no problem to dive in. We came into camp with an idea that he would win the RH platoon role. He had the upper hand. During spring, he showed a few things offensively but it was the defense and how he was in the clubhouse that won him the job.”
Weighing in at 250 lbs and standing at 6’4, Dae-ho earned his nicknames “Big Boy” and “Pig Tiger” over in the KBO and NPB. It’s all part of his charm from his big smile, to the clutch homeruns like this one (wait for the Korean call), he just brings a certain level of fun to baseball that sometimes gets lost in the competitiveness of the game.
While he was only brought in to platoon and hit lefties he has shown an ability to do just about everything. Like Dipoto said, he can make great defensive plays at first, and he is starting to show he can hit in any situation. On Monday, Dae Ho Lee was able to take a pitch from RHP Brandon Maurer and send it out on a Apollo mission launch angle for a three-run homer.
He is nearly identical against righties and lefties hitting .259 against righties with four HRs and .250 with three HRs against lefties. If it was not for Adam Lind conveniently heating up at the exact same time we may have seen some serious conversation about Lee taking over the starting job. With Cruz playing in the OF more frequently and Leonys Martin out, don’t be surprised if we see Lind and Lee both playing with one at DH in the coming week or so.
We hope to see Dae-ho Lee gain even more playing time as the year goes on, and a bright future of Dae-ho chants in Safeco Field for years to come.
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