Korean Baseball (Part Two: Exhibition Game)

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Korean Baseball (Part Two: Exhibition Game)

 

Yesterday I watched seven innings of a baseball game in Korea. The Samsung Lions played at their home stadium against a team from a city I can’t pronounce. On a brisk day, the stands were sparsely filled. It was cold, and things moved a little slower. Still, there was energy–lots of it.

I noticed some things that seemed unique to me, both on the field and in the stands. I enjoyed them. I also did some things in a baseball stadium I had never done before. I’ll start with those:

  1. I have never ordered food inside a stadium that required chopsticks.
  2. I have never slugged a shot of Sake during the 5th inning.
  3. I have never drank beer out of a plastic water bottle.
  4. I have never told a small child to “scram” and then smiled at their parents because I knew they couldn’t understand me.
  5. I have never spent innings 1-3 trying to decipher outfield wall advertisement.
  6. I have never told someone I was a high powered American consulate traveling abroad.

Yesterday, I did all of that.

My experience was rich. I enjoyed a bevy of new activity and sporting culture. I left the stadium full of eager anticipation, looking forward to the rest of the season. I also left with some keen observations… I did not leave with a Samsung Lions kimono. I tried, after the Sake. The team store employee told me kimonos are Japanese, and that it was offensive that I had inquired. She still bowed though, when she asked me to leave.

Below are some things that grabbed my attention during the game:

  • The metro system in Daegu is USer friendly.
    • Clear, succinct illustrations and charts line the walls of the subway stations. Most writing is in Korean, but there is always enough English available–both letters and numbers–to ensure your accurate travel. On my first subway visit I completed the trip with no set-back or difficulty. I rode from station 143 (Imdan) to 138 (Daegu Lions Stadium). The trip was a quick fifteen minutes. I made eyes at a nice looking Korean woman. She did not reciprocate.
    • FYI: I capitalized U and S, from USA, in the first part of the word “user”. I did that to show it is user friendly because of visual English language present. I thought it was a high brow insert.
  • Samsung Lions Park is gorgeous. It is new and modern in design, but most notably it is pleasant because of its setting (Look at picture now).baseball stands.png
    • The outfield back drop is an open, hillside view. There is a berm in the right field corner. I sat there yesterday for an inning, by myself. This is where I drank the Sake. It was actually pleasant, and not indicative of an unhealthy affinity to drink alone.
    • Ammenities. There were plenty, and they were nice.
      • There is a beer stand every 15 yards in the main concourse. That’s how I like it.
        • Cass and DB Beer is what they serve. Both local. Similar to Michelob Ultra. Light and fresh. They offer large servings, too, 24 ounces (represented by the metric system, not sure how many milliliters that is). That will be good during the regular season when I will make one trip, yielding a double-fist of 48 ounces of light beer. As noted earlier, beer is uniquely served. It comes in large plastic bottles, making it appear as if you are drinking something more herbal, like tea. I felt better about slugging the two bottles thinking people may have assumed I was getting after some Chamomile or Earl Grey.
    • The Fans are my favorite part of Korean baseball. They do some unique things during games. I both respect their passion and I laugh at it.
      • When a foul ball is hit into the stands, numerous whistles are blown. Initially, I wasn’t sure what was happening. Never too far from Kim Jung Un, sudden loud noises are something I give my attention. After about the fifth foul ball, though, I realized this was an act of safety and fandom. Stadium attendants and fans take it upon themselves to alert each other that a baseball is leaving the field of play. If you find yourself in Korea at a baseball game, and you are distracted, maybe concentrating on chopsticks or your beer(s), and you hear whistles, duck.
      • Loud Noises!
        • Korean fans yell. They chant and they yell. It is good natured, and there are usually a few ring leaders, but the general mass all seem to delight in it. I didn’t know what was being said. I don’t think anyone else did either. After my second 24 ounce beer, I started yelling. English is embraced just as Korean is–as long as you seem impassioned and/or appear to be degrading an opposing player.
        • There is a stage directly behind the home dugout. It is equipped with speakers and ample room for entertainment. It has not been in use during exhibition play; I will keep you updated as opening day approaches. My gut tells me some theatrics–dragons and folded paper–are lined up.
      • My three friends are foreign players, referred to as “oegug-in”. Sitting amongst the common Korean fan, it is fair to ascertain that certain things are expected of the foreign player.
        • Foreign pitchers: Throw hard and strike dudes out.
          • Your fastball needs to register in the 143-152 (kilometer, roughly 88-95 mph) range to incite some pleasure.
          • This is meant as no disrespect, but most Korean arms (pitchers) are softer, relying on deception and movement. I’ve watched about 15 different Korean pitchers throw now, during Spring training and exhibition, and their mean velocity hovers between 135-140 km. They pitch to contact. Oegug-in pitchers need to make noise, slinging heat and bravado. Picture Charlie Sheen circa 1989, as Wild Thing. If you are a foreign pitcher in Korea, be him.
        • Foreign position players: Go up top.
          • Disregard the short, compact, efficient swing and let it eat. Darrin Ruf, American first baseman and all around good guy, had a couple nice at bats yesterday. Behind in the count I watched him work a pitch into right field for a base hit. As he rounded first, I noticed a Korean family in front me sulk in disappointment. The child may have actually wept. Singles don’t play. In Darin’s next AB he took a swing early in the count that would most aptly be described as healthy. He sent a foul ball high into the stands, resulting in a strike. The crowd went wild. The ball must have stayed in the air for five or six seconds, before returning to the concourse in an area that has no actual effect on the outcome of the game. The same family, still directly in front of me, was ecstatic, doling out high fives and adulation. A gentle murmur swept over the stadium for the next half-inning where I’m sure the discussion centered upon the monstrous foul ball and correlative homers that must soon follow.D RUF.png
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