The Times’ All-Star baseball team: Justin Lee is player of the year

Notre Dame High's Justin Lee prepares to deliver a pitch during a game.
UCLA commit Justin Lee is The Times’ baseball player of the year after going 9-1 with a 1.24 ERA this past season.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
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Justin Lee lives in Koreatown. There’s a good chance that one day someone walking around his neighborhood will be wearing a Justin Lee baseball jersey. That’s how good Lee might become.

As a senior at Sherman Oaks Notre Dame High, the right-handed Lee went 9-1 with a 1.24 ERA and 102 strikeouts in 67 2/3 innings. His improvement over his junior season was impressive. He gave up fewer hits this season (34) than last season (36), when he threw only 37 innings.

He was the Mission League pitcher of the year and helped Notre Dame win a school-record 28 games and rise to No. 1 in the statewide rankings during the regular season. He has been selected The Times’ player of the year.


“He was pretty much unhittable throughout the season and dominated as much as I’ve seen someone dominate,” Notre Dame coach Tom Dill said.

Committed to UCLA, Lee added a split-finger fastball that drops sharply to his arsenal, giving him a third pitch to serve almost like a changeup with his fastball and curveball. He said he taught himself the pitch by watching Angels pitcher Shohei Ohtani on YouTube.

“I was watching videos, then copied his grip,” Lee said. “It’s probably my best pitch now.”

Last season Lee had trouble throwing strikes.

“At first I thought something was wrong with my mechanics,” Lee said. “I realized it’s just all in my head. Last year I’d throw a ball. It would get in my head. Now it’s throw strikes to everybody.”

The room for improvement is immense, since he started pitching his freshman season after being a catcher. His fastball has touched 95 mph.

“I definitely have a lot to learn,” he said.

Justin Lee and Anahi Arreola are The Times’ baseball and softball players of the year for 2023. Check out the rest of the All-Star teams here.

June 11, 2023

His parents were born in Korea.

He might not challenge BTS for popularity, but give him time. He just turned 18 on May 22 and is looking forward to seeing where baseball will take him.