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Dae-ho Lee’s neat line, “Can I strike out Yanagita?” after eight years, wasn’t a bluff.

Lee Dae-ho, 41메이저놀이터, returned to the SoftBank Hawks after an eight-year absence to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.

Lee threw out the ceremonial pitch against the Chiba Lotte Marines at the PayPay Dome in Fukuoka, Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan on April 28. SoftBank fans greeted Lee with a rousing ovation.

Playing for SoftBank in 2014 and 2015, Lee batted .285 (2-for-9) with 50 home runs, 166 RBIs and an .858 OPS in 1076 at-bats over two years, leading SoftBank to back-to-back Japan Series titles. SoftBank, which celebrated its 85th anniversary this year and the 35th anniversary of the PayPay Dome, invited Lee, who led the organization during its heyday, to visit.

Lee’s first visit to the PayPay Dome in eight years echoed with the “Dae-ho~” chant from Busan’s Sajik Stadium and Lee’s signature song, “Orinalda,” from his time with Lotte. “I’m glad to see you, and thank you for welcoming me back after eight years,” Lee Dae-ho said to his fans.

Dae-ho Lee throwing out the ceremonial pitch.

Typically, ceremonial pitches don’t include a ceremonial hit or throw. However, to honor Lee, SoftBank used Yuki Yanagita, who played with Lee eight years ago, as the sitter and Akira Nakamura as the catcher. Yanagita hadn’t revealed that she would be batting until the day of the game, but she made a surprise appearance just before Lee took the field. When he heard that Yanagita was batting, Lee laughed and said, “Can I strike out?” Nakamura, who agreed to catch Lee’s ball, said, “I’m honored to catch. I’ve never played catcher before, so I’ll be lucky if I catch the ball well.”

Lee Dae-ho, who also played as a pitcher at Gyeongnam High School, showed off his rusty skills during the ceremony. With a neat pitching form, he successfully put the ball into the catcher’s mitt. After the game, Lee posed for a photo with Yanagita and Nakamura.

Speaking to Japanese reporters after the game, Lee said, “Thank you for inviting me to such a great event. I’m glad I was able to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. It was great to see the players from the sidelines after a long time,” he said.

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