Big Choi, Big Start
CHICAGOTo the Cubs fans who chant "Hee Seop, Hee Seop" when the Cubs rookie first baseman appears at the plate during a dramatic moment at Wrigley Field, he is known by his given name: Hee Seop Choi.
But to Cubs manager Dusty Baker, the 6-foot-5, 240-pound Korean sensation is simply "Big Choi."
And the nickname is catching on. In late April, the Cubs took out newspaper ads hawking their schedule and a photo of Choi with the headline "Big Choi."
So will Big Choi enjoy a big season? Hes off to a nice start.
The 24-year-old Choi, signed out of Korea in March 1999 and the teams top prospect entering the season, was the lone rookie on the roster when the Cubs broke camp. And through the Cubs first 25 games, Choi was hitting .259-5-14. His five home runs tied him with Sammy Sosa and Corey Patterson for first on the team.
Choi homered in three straight contests against the Reds. He failed to make it 4-for-4 when the Cubs played the Pirates the following day. But Choi was down 0-2 in the count in the first inning against Pittsburghs Kris Benson and eight pitches later nailed a two-run double off the right-center wall that was pretty close to a home run.
"That was a huge at-bat for Big Choi because he fouled off a lot of pitches and got the hit," Baker said. "Hes a smart young man and he picks up things rather quickly. You dont have to tell him the same thing over and over and over. Hes going to get better and better. And he still has a lot to learn."
Choi has learned to turn quicker on inside pitches, which gave him trouble in the minors. Hes also learning to deal with reporters. A handful of Korean media talk with him each day, whether he plays or not. And while his English is getting better and he is polite, Choi still seems uncomfortable talking with large groups of American reporters.
Low Class A Lansing had a historic day in drubbing Dayton 15-0. Pitchers Justin Jones, Wes OBrien and Mark Carter combined for the first no-hitter in club history. Third baseman Donny Hood became the second player in team history to hit for the cycle.
Righthander Bobby Brownlie, the Cubs first-round pick last year, debuted with Class A Daytona and gave up one run on two hits in five innings. He left the game down 1-0 and was saddled with the 6-3 loss. But five days later, he gave up one run on four hits in 61Ž3 innings to earn a win over Brevard County.
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