Melvin, Jung Hoo Lee share experiences in SF Giants-Dodgers rivalry

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LOS ANGELES — Growing up in Korea, Jung Hoo Lee didn’t have a clue about the Giants-Dodgers rivalry. Decades earlier, Bob Melvin lived and breathed it while being raised in Palo Alto, then became a part of it as a player when he was traded to his hometown team.

Of the handful of new entrants to the rivalry — the highest-profile, of course, being Shohei Ohtani on the other side — it would be hard to find two who came into it with more disparate history than the Giants manager and his increasingly impressive center fielder.

“It’s something I’ve grown up with, so I know all about it,” Melvin said. “Everybody takes it individually. Some people just look at it as another series. Some may be a little more fired up for it.”

Lee?

“Probably not a lot,” Melvin said. “He’s got a lot going on right now. I’m sure he knows a lot of the rivalries in the big leagues – Yankees-Red Sox and so forth – but I think he’s got enough on his plate where he’s not too focused on that.”

If Lee was fazed at all by the fourth deck of Dodger Stadium, the announced 49,044 on hand, or any aspect of the rivalry, it didn’t show in his first game. He rapped two more singles, reaching base successfully as he has done in each of his first five career games.

“I had fun playing against the Dodgers,” Lee said in Korean through interpreter Justin Han. “It was for sure a new experience. A lot of crowds in the ballpark. I tried to keep it as cool as possible during the game yesterday.”

Lee said that before signing with the Giants in December, “I never knew about the rivalry.

“But coming into the team, I found out that there was a big rivalry between the Dodgers and the Giants. A lot of teammates have come up to me and told me about the rivals and all the historical things about (Dodger Stadium).”

Few are more familiar with the rivalry than Melvin, who has experienced it as a fan, a player and now as a manager.

While Melvin didn’t specify which bucket he falls into regarding his attitude toward the rivalry, Matt Chapman has an idea. He played for Melvin in Oakland from 2017-21, and, “he always wanted to beat the Giants because of that rivalry,” Chapman said.

“Now that he’s on the Giants, I’ve gotta imagine he wants to obviously beat the A’s but beat the Dodgers. That’s an in-division rival, a rivalry that goes back longer than any of us. It’s pretty cool to be a part of it.”

It’s new for Chapman, too. He, Jorge Soler, Tom Murphy, Nick Ahmed and a pair of rookie relievers — Erik Miller and Nick Avila — all got their first taste of it in Monday’s 8-3 defeat.

“I think everybody in this room understands (the magnitude),” Chapman said. “You could tell. You can feel it when you’re out there. It’s a cool atmosphere. It was a lot of fun. It was awesome. I’ve always loved playing here. Crowd’s always in it. They support their team. It’s loud. So it’s always fun to play in those types of games. Unfortunately we weren’t able to come out on top but it’s going to be a fun one when we get that win on the road.”

It was Ohtani’s introduction to the rivalry, too, and he was part of the Dodgers’ Big Three that powered the win, combining with Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman to go 6-for-11 and play a part in six of the Dodgers’ eight runs.

Asked earlier in the week about adding the sport’s biggest star to the dynamic between the two teams, Melvin said, “I don’t know how you amp up the Giants-Dodgers rivalry even more.” When it came to facing the Japanese superstar, Lee said, “Ohtani is just another player who’s playing for the Dodgers.”

Whether or not Lee was aware of the stakes, there was no questioning his effort.

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