'You're dating my sister? Why?' Newly minted NL West rivals are family first

January 16th, 2024

Jung Hoo Lee has said that he was asleep when the call first came in from Woo-Suk Go, who, at the time, had been his longtime competitor on the diamond from their youth all the way up to both becoming stars of the KBO League, the top level of baseball competition in South Korea.

And that led to one of those record-scratch moments.

“Around this time last year, [Go] called to tell me that he’d started seeing my sister,” Lee told the Ilyo Newspaper in Korean last December. “I’d been asleep, so I had no idea what he was saying, and I tried to hang up after saying, ‘Got it.’ [Go] asked again, ‘Is that OK?’ and I told him again it was OK and went back to sleep.

“When I woke up, I remembered what [Go] had said, so I called him back and asked, ‘What? You’re dating my sister? Why?’”

Not long after, Go and Ga-Hyun Lee (sister to Jung Hoo) were married in January 2023, per Nate Sports -- and that linked two of the KBO’s high-profile players, who are now bringing their family connection across the Pacific Ocean to a renewed rivalry in the highly competitive NL West.

Lee is the Giants’ premier acquisition of the offseason as the former KBO MVP and “Grandson of the Wind” -- a reference to his former baseball superstar father’s nickname, “Son of the Wind.” He introduced himself with a charming and charismatic press conference after he signed a six-year, $113 million deal to become the Giants’ center fielder following years of stardom with the Nexen/Kiwoom Heroes in Korea, where he was teammates with Ha-Seong Kim.

Go soon followed with a two-year, $4.5 million deal to join Kim in San Diego after having served as the closer for the defending KBO champion LG Twins. He most recently closed out the decisive Game 5 of the Korea Series to snap a 29-year championship drought for the Twins.

“It’s a good thing that [Go] set career highs and established himself as the best closer after meeting my sister,” Lee joked in Korean to Ilyo. “If his performance had been worse, he’d have been in trouble.”

That brought the Family of the Wind -- so to speak -- to the American West Coast, where their family connection and rivalry will reach new heights as the culmination of a journey that began as teenagers for the longtime competitors-turned-brothers-in-law.

“[Go] and I have been competing since my third year of middle school,” Lee said in Korean after receiving the 2022 KBO MVP Award, according to the Yonhap News. “I could only win if I could hit [Go]’s pitches, so I remember setting the pitching machine to throw really hard in order to train for him.”

Lee and Go aren’t the only such relations to cross paths in the Majors, of course -- and Lee isn’t even the first Giant to share the league with his brother-in-law in recent years.

Brandon Crawford and Gerrit Cole also share that relationship, with Crawford notably homering off Cole when the Giants and Astros squared off in 2018. José Berríos and Javier Báez faced off as brothers-in-law during the 2019 All-Star Game (Berríos prevailed), and brothers-in-law Willi Castro and Amed Rosario shared the AL Central for a few seasons. Manny Machado and the now-retired Yonder Alonso -- both plenty familiar to Padres fans -- are also brothers-in-law.

According to the Ilyo Newspaper, some of Lee’s teammates with the Heroes shared with him following a matchup with LG that his mother had been seen in the stands clapping both for his hits and for Go’s pitching -- hardly stopping her applause throughout the ninth inning as her boys squared off on the diamond.

Lee and Go won’t need to wait long to seek bragging rights during the first Spring Training matchup between the Giants and Padres early in the Cactus League schedule on March 2.

After the Padres open their regular season in Seoul against the Dodgers from March 20-21, their first regularly scheduled games of the ‘24 campaign will come in a four-game series against the Giants at Petco Park from March 28-31.

It’ll be a family affair as the Korean baseball community continues to expand its international influence through two of its highest-profile sons.