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Hee-seop Choi (March 19 1979 in Hwasun, South Korea) is a professional baseball player who has played in the MLB for the Chicago Cubs, Florida Marlins, and the Los Angeles Dodgers. He is a first baseman who bats and throws left-handed. Choi currently plays for the Kia Tigers in the South Korean KBO League.
Hee-seop Choi graduated from Kwang-Ju Jae Il High School in Gwangju, South Korea, in 1998. He attended Korea University in 1998 and was a member of the Korean National Team that finished second in the 1998 World Baseball Championships. He was scouted and signed by Leon Lee, the father of Chicago Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee. Coincidentally, he later was traded to the Marlins for Lee.
Beginning in 1999, Choi spent four seasons in the Cubs minor league system and was considered to be one of the organization's top prospects. On September 3, 2002, Choi made his Major League debut against the Milwaukee Brewers and became the first Korean-born position player to play in the Major Leagues.
In 2003, Choi played in 80 games, hitting .218 with eight home runs and 28 RBI. He was the Opening Day starter for the Cubs, but suffered a concussion following a collision with teammate pitcher Kerry Wood on June 7, 2003. Choi went on the disabled list, and never reclaimed his starting role. After the season, he was traded to the World Champion Florida Marlins for Derrek Lee.
With his new team, Choi began the 2004 season impressively batting .295 with nine home runs and 18 RBIs in April. But his stay with the Marlins was a brief one. On July 30, he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers along with Brad Penny and minor league pitcher Bill Murphy for Paul Lo Duca, Guillermo Mota, and Juan Encarnación. Sabermetric baseball analysts claimed that Choi did not get enough playing time because of bias from the Dodgers' old school managerial style, which kept rookies on the bench for extended periods of time. Jim Tracy reportedly said that he did not start Choi on one particular day because Adam Eaton was pitching, and Eaton has a unique arm angle in his pitching delivery.
During the 2005-2006 offseason, the Dodgers signed Nomar Garciaparra to be the everyday first baseman. Rather than keep Choi on the bench or blocking James Loney, Coletti's Dodgers decided to waive Choi during spring training; he was subsequently claimed by the Boston Red Sox.
Choi spent the entire 2006 season with Pawtucket. He was designated for assignment August 1, 2006, while on Pawtucket's disabled list and removed from Boston's 40-man roster. Choi cleared waivers on August 11, 2006, and was outrighted to Pawtucket.
On December 1, 2006, Choi signed a minor league contract with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays where he was given a shot to be Tampa Bay's everyday first baseman. Choi decided to return home after failing to make Tampa Bay's 40-man roster after 2007 spring training.
After failing to perform well against Korean pitching, Choi was demoted to the Korean minor league affiliate of the Kia Tigers.
- Choi was one of eight representatives in the 2005 Home Run Derby, representing South Korea. Although he lasted only one round, he matched The Netherlands' representative, Andruw Jones, with a total of five home runs. He did not feature in the All-Star game.
- List of players from South Korea in Major League Baseball
- Major League Baseball hitters with three home runs in one game