Korean baseball is a trip

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Not deterred by being denied professional baseball on my first try, I went back to Jamsil Stadium for the Sunday evening game between the Lotte Giants and the Doosan Bears.

Observations about Korean baseball:

• The Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) is made up of 8 teams: Doosan Bears, Hanhwa Eagles, Kia Tigers, Lotte Giants, LG Twins, Samsung Lions, SK Wyverns and Seoul Heroes.

• The teams are identified by their main sponsor. Some of the gear worn by the players and fans says the name of the team (Giants) and some says the sponsor (Lotte). Wells Fargo is the primary sponsor of the Portland Trail Blazers, but I have a hard time thinking people would purposely buy or wear WF decorated gear, or sing a song such as “Oh, Wells Fargooooo… Oh, Wells Fargooooo”. WF has to give away merchandise by shooting t-shirts out of cannons and dropping parachutes from the roof, and still nobody wears the gear. So I thought it was odd to be cheering and chanting the sponsor, but that’s how it’s done, and how the teams are identified.

• Lots of people show up with food, you can bring whatever you want in to the stadium. If you didn’t, you can buy things just outside the stadium or inside.

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• Some of the things you can buy just outside the stadium are a little strange. Dried squid for example. But there is also kimbap, other dried seafood, and all kinds of drinks including beer.

• Inside, there is not that much variety: Burger King, KFC and mini marts for chips, sodas and candy. Some of the mini marts have an extra area with Duk bokki and Udon noodles. Beer is also sold at little spots in the concourse and by dudes walking around with kegs on their backs. By far the most popular food to eat at a baseball game is fried chicken, everyone was eating it.

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• No hot dogs and no peanuts drove me crazy.

• There doesn’t appear to be a home field advantage. Even though it was a Doosan home game, half of the stadium was designated Lotte, and completely full. It was so segregated in fact that each side has their own sound system, pumping their own music, chanting or information.

• Each side has a whistle guy that stands on a platform and leads the chanting and singing when their team is up to bat. Each side also has cheerleaders to entertain the crowd between innings. Pictures here, videos below.

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• Everyone has those thunder sticks. Everyone. And the entire stadium is very loud and interactive, following the lead of whistle guy.

• There are also a lot of homemade pom poms made from ripped newspaper.

• Like sporting events back home, there was the kissing cam on the jumbo screen. Two dudes even got in to the action, drawing a big laugh from the crowd. The camera also picks attractive ladies out of the crowd to show between innings, during the K-Pop songs that the cheerleaders are dancing to. Upon seeing themselves on camera, they immediately stand up and dance provocatively with their thunder sticks, followed by sitting in their chair with their face in their hands, completely embarrassed by their public actions, only to be found dancing once again when the camera comes back for a second, sometimes even third look.

• There was even a proposal on the jumbo screen. However, because it took place on the Doosan side, you could barely hear what was going on because the audio was only being pumped through the speakers on their side of the stadium. The crowd on the Lotte side was watching the screen though, and was very touched by this very public display of affection.

I grabbed a GA outfield ticket and head inside to watch the pregame. After sitting down with some BK chicken tenders and a Hite, I realize that I chose the visiting Lotte Giants side of the stadium, which is fine with me because I’m not connected to any team. I wanted to pull for the Giants anyway. Their colors are orange and black (go beavs), and from watching a game on TV last week I think they have a black manager and a white guy on their team. And I have gathered that rooting for Doosan is a little bit like rooting for the Yankees. No offense to my Yankee fan brethren, it’s just nice to pull for the underdog.

Pre-game festivities were short and sweet. A martial arts demonstration that was a big hit with the crowd. What I assume was the national anthem, during which a montage of Doosan baseball highlights was shown on the jumbo screen, which I found a bit odd. Also, in a move that would have been considered very disrespectful back home, but apparently not here… only the players removed their hats during the anthem, nobody in the stands. There was a celebrity throwing out the first pitch, I have no idea who. And there was no full blown player introduction, just one picture each on the jumbo screen showing the entire lineup at once.

The game opens with a Lotte triple! The crowd which is still rolling in is immediately loud and rowdy. Whistle guy does a good job at pumping everyone up. It’s 1-0 at the end of the first inning. The group of 5 in front me, 3 dudes and 2 girls, probably late 20’s or early 30’s, were pouring Soju in their Hite, and starting to get a little wacky. Two innings in to the game their BK and KFC bags were on their heads.

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After watching the first 4 innings from left field, I move a little closer to the action. I spent the next 2-3 innings standing pretty close to whistle guy and cheerleaders along the 3rd base line so that I could get some good photos and video.

These red bags were passed out all over this section of the stadium. Most people wrap them up trapping the air inside, and flip them upside down, placing the loops over their ears to hold the bag on the top of their head. I’m not sure the significance of the bags, but what they are doing with them is comedy like everything else. Everybody in the stadium is very friendly in a good mood, acting goofy, drinking, singing, chanting…it’s quite the experience.

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Hungry again, I grab some Udon noodles and coke, and finish the game back in the outfield seating. Lotte won the game 1-0.

I found out later at work that Lotte is known for having an extra sing songy environment, with lots of songs and chants. That’s no joke.

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Learn Korean with KoreanClass101.com

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~ by ripcitytoseoul on June 9, 2009.

5 Responses to “Korean baseball is a trip”

  1. That is a trip too see how different baseball games are in Korea! I love the cheerleaders I think they are so cute 🙂 The red hats that people where are really funny! Glad you had a good time! P.s. Dried squid for a snack, YUCK!

  2. I wear Wells Fargo gear and sing songs in there honor each morning on my way into work…

  3. That is a wet dream for the marketing departments of American companies; having your merchandise cheered over the play on the field/court/whatever. Can you imagine rooting for the Nike Ducks (oops, did I say that one out loud?). The Blazer dancers have little to worry about regarding competition from those cheerleaders, but the whistle guy would get obnoxious after a while, particulalry if you had to be sitting nearby. Otherwise, a typical b-ball game that could have been played just about anywhere. Thanks for sharing the snackage available; I wondered if it was going to be kimchee on brats or what. Sorry no hot dogs or peanuts; you’re definitely not in Kansas (or Oregon) anymore….

  4. […] Korean baseball is a trip, and a completely different experience than watching America’s pastime at home. It’s an interactive, sing songy game full of chants and percussive noises. The fans are pretty intense too. […]

  5. […] Palace Back to the Fish Market Scooter Rally and Korean Movie Theaters Noryangjin Fish Market Korean Baseball is a Trip Bosingak, Insadong and No Baseball for You Mt. Umyeonsan, Daesongsa Temple and the Seoul Arts […]

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