Without a doubt, a highlight of our time in Korea is going to be experiencing a Korean baseball game. When Anderson first asked via email if we would be interested in going to a game during our visit, I was stoked. Not only is it my sport, so to speak, but we haven been in any baseball countries during our travels yet. So today we not only saw baseball, but a sporting event unlike any I’ve ever seen While my brother and I would routinely show up to baseball games hours before the first pitch when we were younger (to watch batting practice, get balls and autographs), today was the first time in awhile I’ve arrived at a game two hours early. The Muths told us that the early arrival was key, since everyone got to games early to reserve their seats. With open seating, it was a free for all・ell, almost. Besides sitting in the seats they wanted, many people just use sheets of newspaper to reserve a seat for friends or family. Apparently, the newspaper reservations go unquestioned. If a seat is newspapered, you’re out of luck. Perhaps that’s why there were tables outside of the stadium selling newspapers. I later learned that the newspapers were not to read, but indeed to save seats and make pom-poms, as Liz and Joylani masterfully created. Once inside the stadium, the hunt for seats began. There was only one deck, split into two levels. The top deck was packed with people. The only seats that were unoccupied were a few with food on them, but Anderson said people would sit on steps before people would move their food. The funny thing, though, was that although the top deck was packed, the lower deck was nearly empty. Apparently nobody likes to sit in the good seats closest to the field, because the cheerleaders do their thing on a platform between the upper section and the lower section. Which was fine by me, because it meant that we had our pick of first, second, third, fourth, and so on, rows from the field. So with some of the best seats I致e ever had at a game, we sat down (roughly an hour and a half before the game was to begin).
You’d think that it’d get a little boring sitting there for that long before game time, but another unique feature of Korean baseball is that you can bring your own food in. We had quite a few rolls of kim-bap, some bags of chips and other snacks, plus beer. I saw some guys bringing whole cases of beer in. Forget American baseball games with their four dollar sodas, six dollar hot dogs, and eight dollar beers. Even if we did have to buy things, there were dozens of little old ladies in 7-Eleven vests selling water, sodas, beer, cuttlefish, kim-bap, you name it. There is a reason that Korea baseball is cheaper though and that’s because you get what you pay for.
Korean baseball is different. As for the rules, fences are about 10 meters closer than most American fields and designated hitters are used universally. These two things contribute to many high scoring games, but the sloppy playing is equally a factor. While pitching velocities are comparable to American ones, skill (notably control) is lacking in Korean pitching. Korean line scores go R, H, E, and B for walks, because there are so many. Anderson said that our game was pretty typical with tons of errors and retarded mistakes. Perhaps that’s why foreigners who cannot make the American or Japanese major leagues come here. For instance, the Busan Giants have two Mexican players, the most famous being the former Major Leaguer, Garcia, which the Koreans pronounce Gaar-oo-sia. Oh yea, another thing is that its each team is owned by a large corporation, so the Busan Giants are actually the Lotte Giants of Busan (and we played the LG Twins of Seoul). Consequently, we were chanting Lotte to a myriad of American songs. Also, each player had his own song which the whole stadium chanted at every at-bat. The newspaper pom-poms were everywhere the entire game and then in the late-innings, orange plastic bags were passed out. Instead of rally-caps, Koreans fill the bags with air and wear them on their heads. It was a completely crazy night, but equally interesting as an ethnographical baseball experience.