Hwang Dae-in (27-KIA) was sent home for the first time in his career after putting down his bat and making an unspoken protest.스포츠토토

Hwang Dae-in struck out looking in his second at-bat of the fourth inning against Hanwha in Daejeon on April 23. Hanwha pitcher Ricardo Sanchez’s four-pitch fastball went deep, and Hwang Dae-in, who thought it was a ball, dropped his bat to the ground in frustration at the strike call and looked at umpire Lee Young-jae for a moment. In his first at-bat of the second inning, Hwang Dae-in struck out on a similarly pitched ball, seemingly frustrated with the call.

In response, umpire Lee Young-jae waved his hand at Hwang Dae-in as if to say, “Don’t do it. Hwang Dae-in muttered something to himself and turned around without taking any action, but umpire Lee Young-jae pointed to his bat and called his name several times. Whether he heard or not, Hwang Dae-in didn’t pick up the bat and headed to the third base dugout.

Umpire Lee Young-jae then ordered Hwang Dae-in to leave the game immediately. KIA manager Kim Jong-guk and head coach Jin Gap-yong came onto the field to appeal, but the decision was not changed. Kiwoom’s Lee Yong-kyu was also ejected on April 5 last year for leaving his bat down in the batter’s box after striking out in the ninth inning against LG in Gochuk, and Hwang Dae-in’s behavior on that day was also taken as an indirect protest against the umpire.

It was the fifth ejection in the KBO this season, with the previous three players (Seo Jin-yong, Lee Seung-jin, and Koo Seung-min) receiving automatic ejections for head shots. Among the managers, Samsung manager Park Jin-man was automatically ejected for protesting the video review. Hwang Dae-in was also ejected for the first time in his seven-season first-team career for a ball call.

A batsman leaving his bat on the field is an unspoken protest that can be used as grounds for ejection at the umpire’s discretion. However, due to the recent events surrounding umpires, baseball fans were baffled by Hwang’s ejection. “I think the ejection was a bit quick,” said SPOTV commentator Lee Dae-hyung, who broadcast the game.

Umpire Lee Young-jae, a 28-year veteran who also serves as a team manager, was controversial in a similar situation in the Doosan-Lotte game on Oct. 10. In the eighth inning, Lotte hitter Jeon Jun-woo struck out on a deep ball to the side of his body and then shook his head at the umpire’s call. After standing there for a moment and showing his unspoken displeasure, Jun-woo entered the dugout without making a special appeal. After double-checking the location of the ball in the clubhouse, Jeon asked the umpire if the ball was missing from the dugout, but during the offensive changeover, umpire Lee Young-jae approached the Lotte dugout in an agitated manner, creating an immediate situation.

The incident did not turn into a major conflict as Lotte coaches calmed both sides down, but the umpire’s uncomfortable expression was captured on the TV broadcast. The next day, Jeon Jun-woo said, “Ball judgment is a human job, so mistakes can happen. I understand,” he said, adding, “If you just say, ‘I’ll check,’ the players understand. Players are sensitive to things like that. It’s a little bit frustrating when you’re really focused and you get a call like that. Referees who are working hard and doing a good job are also criticized because of this,” he said.

Just two weeks later, umpire Lee Young-jae sent out another batsman after he complained about a ball call. Hwang Dae-in, who put down his bat and walked out, did not do a good job, but his management was disappointing. Both umpires and players are human beings, so there are times when feelings are hurt, but there is a lack of mutual respect because there is no communication. The authoritarian attitude of some referees has led to distrust among players.

In the LG-Hanwha game in Jamsil on the 20th, referee Kwon Young-cheol got into a nervous battle with LG’s Park Hae-min. In the 12th inning, Park Hae-min was out on a straight hit to first base after being unhappy with umpire Kwon Young-cheol’s initial strike call, and he went into the dugout throwing his helmet wildly. After the next batter, Moon Sung-joo, batted, umpire Kwon Young-cheol suddenly went to the LG dugout and exchanged words with Park Hae-min.

“Hey, I’m struggling, too,” Kwon shouted at Park, which was clearly heard on the TV broadcast. No matter how close they were as baseball players, it was troubling to see an umpire yell at a player in the middle of a game. Repeated misjudgments and misapplication of rules are a big problem, but the high-pressure attitude of umpires who have nervous battles with players continues to erode their image, dignity, and authority.

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