It has been nearly two months since my last post about Korean baseball. I think that is too long, since Korean baseball is exactly the reason I’m here.
I have watched numerous games and I’ve observed numerous things. Some of them are legit–namely the aggressive lady dancers–and some are too much. I’ve seen games in Daegu and I’ve seen games in Seoul. As stadiums are different and each offer their own unique experiences, the essence of Korean baseball is always the same. Below are the things I love and also the things I just can’t get on board with. Either way, if you find yourself in Korea, you need to catch a baseball game. This post will hopefully explain why.
My favorite parts:
- Price and serving size of beer (maegju)
- As illustrated, the serving size is plentiful; at least 25 ounces. This generous amount costs me 5,000 Won (about $4.50). That’s beautiful. It has been over a year since watching a game in the States, but 25 ounces of beer at a Big League stadium would require a credit check and/or some type of collateral. Here, by the third inning, I can have gone through a 6-pack of light beer and I’m only down $9.00. Again, that is beautiful. Also, the bottles appear to be tinted and they have no label. When I send snaps from the game, on a Tuesday, I can use captions like “green tea and baseball!” or “Korean baseball and Korean tea!” I am able to mask my developing drinking habits and make light of alcohol dependency that years later will surface.
- I was very excited to take this picture. I am very excited to see these dancers every game. They make me feel very excited… Each inning these dancers, most aptly described as “sultry”, parade atop a stage in foul territory. They wear minimal clothing and they dance hard. They pay no mind to the live at bat or the concentration of on field competition–they dance. They dance, and I love it. Most of the time the music that they dance to is American. It is unedited, which makes sense because most fans cannot understand said lyrics. So when they dance to Rihanna’s “Bitch better have my money”, you hear, “Bitch better have my money.” In the fifth inning there is a wardrobe change. Typically their new apparel is in line with a late inning routine. They seem to wear less as the game advances. I love it. It makes me very excited.
- Incessant Sound
- The cheerleaders are always dancing because there is always music playing. Initially I wasn’t sure how to handle this. Now, forty games in, I realize I dig it. Baseball, unless you are a diehard or your salary depends upon the game, is not the most exciting sport. In Korea each team employs an in-game DJ of sorts. During every At Bat of every inning, the DJ is leading cheer and music. The crowd is involved. This makes the games more fun. Sober, I appreciate it. Drunk, I take off my shirt.
- Kilometer familiarity
- I’m getting very good at understanding velocity in terms of kilometers. 145 Kilometers, for example, is almost exactly 90 miles per hour. As I look forward to returning to Louisiana and speaking broken Korean in front of friends and attractive girls, I am equally excited to verbalize that a neighborhood speed limit of 35 mph is 56.327 Kilometers.
- Koo Ja Wok
- Koo, the right fielder for the Samsung Lions, is my favorite player in the Korean baseball league. I am including my best friend and starting pitcher Anthony Ranaudo in that mix. Koo is the best.
- Koo is a rangy, talented outfielder with legitimate power potential. As a left-handed hitter he possesses a smooth, quick swing, and is able to drive the ball to all parts of the field. He has a natural lift in his swing that is advantageous–as he already has 11 HR’s–and possesses amazing hand eye enabling an ability to hit for average. His walk out song is also nails and during spring training he was super nice to me when everyone else assumed me for a free-loading friend crashing team meals.
- Pictured above are my two favorite Korean baseball players. Favorite player (left), second favorite (right).
***I’m trying to break my habit of disclaimers in my writing but I need to make one here. Korean baseball is fun, impassioned, and an extremely skilled display of competition. I go to almost every game because I love the environment and I love Korean culture. I have had an amazing experience thus far. Please just know that before reading further.
My least favorite parts:
- Game length
- I watched a 9 inning game–final score 5 to 4–that lasted 4 hours and 48 minutes. There were no substantial injuries and there were no electrical stadium failures. That was how long that game took. When the final out was made I contemplated walking in front of a Korean taxi (they don’t stop). It made me hate baseball. All bullets to follow will correlate with this leading detractor, “game length”.
- Managerial stamp
- Mangers here manage the f*ckkkk out of their teams. That’s not good, if you weren’t sure. The best thing about Tony LaRussa was that you didn’t notice Tony LaRussa. Here, early inning bunts, pickoff moves, pickoff plays, double steals, and defensive substitutions are of the ubiquitous variety. They happen too much. They are also the reason why I was able to watch “The Sorcerer’s Stone” and “The Chamber of Secrets” during a 9 inning game. In regards to time and “annoyability”, defensive substitutions are the worst. In 40 games I’ve seen double digit instances where a defensive player was substituted mid-inning, during an At Bat. MID.INNING. The Korean Baseball Organization features many talented, exciting players. It bothers me that managers try so heartily to leave their mark on the game.
- Diva shit
- Again, please know that I do respect Korean players and I value their skill and passion for the game. That is part of why I love baseball here. But, that passion often seg-ways into what I very deeply hate: diva shit. As a former player (bad) I know that it hurts when you are a batter and you are hit with a pitch. The harder they throw the worse it hurts. I get that; most people do. But when a pitch strikes you in the meaty area of your body–regardless of its velocity, twenty seconds is all you need. That is enough time for the bruise to start and the pain to stop. Take your base and let’s get back to it. Obviously, as you’re correctly assuming, that is not how it plays out here. I watched a 113 kilometer (70 mph), horse-shit breaking ball back up on a pitcher and plunk the batter in the thigh. 20 minutes later, after it was confirmed that the batter did in fact still possess control of his vertebrae and corresponding extremities, the player took first base… Time in between pitches is another laborious element that detracts from gamely efficiency. I’m not really sure why, for they don’t do anything different than American players, but the added time is tangible. Deeper breathing and gear adjustment are what I would pin as the most potent culprits.
- I couldn’t think of a better way to articulate this subject matter than, “diva shit”.
- 6th inning stretch and potty break
- For the players. In the sixth inning there is a ten minute break where the benches are cleared and all players take to the outfield for a stretch and a jog. The infield is re-prepped too. Regardless of the flow of the game, or its pace, or the consideration for a starting pitcher, all momentum stops in the sixth inning. The only reason why this colossal waste of time doesn’t force my premature exit is that most stadiums typically launch t-shirts with the t-shirt bazooka at this time. So, I stay.
- Whistle blowing
- No one is tattling on anyone else. Stadium attendants literally blow whistles every time a batted ball leaves the field of play. If you’ve ever been to a baseball game, at any level, you know that foul balls are commonplace. I’m tired of re-doing snaps or video selfies because my take is interrupted by a cacophony of whistles and fans concerned with safety.
I will write more about Korean baseball in a few weeks. I will call the post “Korean Baseball (Part Four)”.