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Baseball May 11, 2009

Posted by jorkat in Seoul.
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For those of you wondering when I was finally going to write about sports again, well that day is finally here.

This post is long overdue as we actually experienced our first Korean baseball game almost a month ago. It was a day I won’t soon forget.

KBOThe Korean Baseball Organization or KBO was started back in 1982 and currently consists of 8 teams which all play each other 18 times per season for a total of 126 games. The teams are geographically based in different parts of Korea and are owned and named after large companies and conglomerates.

When I started researching the KBO way back when we confirmed that we were coming to Korea, I decided to pledge allegiance to one of the two teams based in Seoul and follow the team throughout the season the only way I know how – obsessively. I ended up choosing the LG Twins for the simple reason that I had heard of the company LG and was familiar with the team name Twins from Minnesota. I knew very little about the team as most of the content on the web was in Korean. All I did know was that they hadn’t won a championship since 1994 and lost 80 games last year, so they weren’t exactly the most appealing option, but I was undeterred.

Upon arriving in Seoul, I quickly found out that most of the people I met were actually fans of the other team based in Seoul, the Doosan Bears. This team had made it all the way to the finals last year before losing to the SK Wolverines and had a number of players on the World Baseball Classic roster in which Korea finished 2nd to Japan back in March. One of the other teachers at our school, Darren, is also a passionate sports fan and decided to support the Bears so we could enjoy a friendly rivalry and root against each other, even though we didn’t know any of the players names…yet.

Sunday, April 12th, 2009;  5:00pm – Jamsil Stadium, Seoul

We took the subway four stops to get to the stadium and started to navigate through the crowd to find tickets. We had no idea what we were doing and weren’t even sure if any would be available as this was the first time LG and Doosan were playing against each other this season. They share a stadium which has a capacity of approximately 30,000 seats, so we got there a bit early to figure things out.

Sure enough they had scalpers, but not the typical assholes who make you feel like you need a shower after dealing with them and will hose you for every last penny. All of the scalpers were little old ladies who you would have a hard time saying no to regardless of the language barrier. Fortunately, we did not have to go this route as we arrived early enough to get general admission tickets. The stadium has reserved seating in the lower level where you can pay around $12 for seats along the 1st and 3rd base lines or you can pay a whopping $20 to sit right behind the plate. We opted for the even cheaper option of $6 to sit in the unreserved seats in the second level and had arrived early enough to get this view directly behind home plate.

IMG_5916

It’s actually a lot closer than it looks from this picture and was a great vantage point to watch the action from.  These seats in any major league ballpark in North America would go for at least $80 a pop. At the end of the game I tallied up how much Katie and I spent on 2 tickets, 3 beers each and a whopper and fries from Burger King. The grand total was less than $40.

The other great thing about this league which Katie particularly enjoyed is the fans and the atmosphere. Regardless of the score of the contest, the fans are cheering almost non-stop. Each teams fans sit on opposite sides of the field and have cheerleaders that lead the respective fan-bases in a never ending slew of catchy cheers that usually involve the thunder sticks that almost every fan has. Thunder sticks are inflatable plastic sticks and make  an effective noise when banged together in unison by thousands of people. They became popular in Anaheim back when the Angels won the World Series in 2002, but they haven’t caught on anywhere else. In Korea, they are a staple at every Korean baseball game. I’ve never been to a European football (soccer) game before but I imagine that the atmosphere is similar with the constant chanting and rabid fan bases, but minus the hooligans and violence. Here’s some video from just prior to the opening pitch.

 At the time, the season was just over a week old and the Twins had the same record as my beloved Red Sox at 6-6. They also had something else in common. Each team in the KBO is allowed to have two foreign players on their roster, and it just so happens that one of the two foreigners on the LG Twins is none other than the immortal Roberto Petagine.

Roberto Petagine_TwinsFor those of you who aren’t familiar with Mr. Petagine (which is probably everyone reading this), he’s a Venezuelan who has bounced around professional baseball all over the world and even had a cup of coffee with the Red Sox in 2005. I actually attended a game at Fenway in 2005, watched Roberto hit a home run against the Yankees and probably hadn’t thought about him since then, as he was a bench player and was released by the Sox after that season. I had no idea that he was on the LG Twins roster as almost everything on their website is written in Korean, so needless to say, I got pretty excited when he stepped to the plate as the Twins clean-up hitter in the bottom of the first. The scoreboards at the stadium are also written almost entirely in Korean too, but I was able to figure out that only a week into the season, Petagine was batting almost .500 with 4 home runs and 12 RBI’s (update: We’re well over a month into the season and he continues to tear it up with a .429 batting average, 12 home runs and 29 RBI’s). I immediately turned to my fellow teacher and Doosan fan, Darren and coolly exclaimed “he’s going yard.” (This is baseball slang for he’s going to hit a home run). Sure enough, 3 pitches later and the ball was in the right field stands for a 2-0 first inning lead. I was ecstatic.

How many people in this world can say that they’ve seen Roberto Petagine hit a home run at Fenway Park in BosRoberto Petagine_Red Soxton AND on the other side of the world at Jamsil Stadium in Seoul, Korea? How many people even know that he’s played in both of these places? How many people even care? Well I do. If he doesn’t have a Facebook fan group yet, he will soon. Oh, and if you don’t think I’m buying his jersey, then you clearly don’t know me very well.

Despite the Twins’ center fielder dropping a routine fly ball in the top of the 8th which opened the door for a 2-run Doosan rally which ultimately won the game, it was a perfect evening for my introduction to the KBO.

We’ve already gone back for a few games since then and after starting out with a rather unimpressive 10-13 record, the Twins just rolled off 8 straight victories, including a sweep of their in-town rival Doosan Bears to take over sole possession of 2nd place. This week they face the first place and defending KBO champions, SK Wolverines and you can bet that Katie and I will be there rooting for our new favourite team. Katie with her new thundersticks and me with my new Petagine jersey. I may have to update my Man-Crush List sooner than expected.

 You can read more about the KBO here and here.

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Comments»

1. M Squared - May 12, 2009

looks like a Pueto Rican Park – are you actually in Puerto Rico?

2. Danner - May 12, 2009

This is so awesome Jordan,
reading this you really can feel your excitement!
perhaps we can do a toonie tuesday game at the rogers center when you all return…

Cheers,

Danner

3. Dyson - May 12, 2009

Jordan,

Actually, each team plays 133 games in the regular season. Each team plays every other team 19 times.

The KBO season culminates in its championship series, known as the Korean Series. Currently, the top four teams qualify for the post-season; the team with the best record gains a direct entry into the series. The other three teams compete in a step-ladder playoff: the first, best-of-five series involves teams finishing 3rd and 4th; the winner of this series then plays off in a best-of-seven series against the team finishing 2nd. The winner of this final playoff wins the other entry into the best-of-seven Korean Series.

But you my already know all this, as you are now a die-hard fan.

4. Josh - May 12, 2009

Thanks Jordan for this riveting post. I was particularily bored by your history of the thunderstick

5. Dyson - May 12, 2009

Go and find this poster please.

6. Dyson - May 12, 2009

Go and find this advertisement in Seoul and report back please.

http://tinyurl.com/pdc7qt

Thanks

7. jorkat - May 12, 2009

They play 126 games. Trust me.

Shouldn’t be a problem finding the billboard. Seoul is tiny.

8. Sean - May 14, 2009

HI Jordan!

9. Mulqueen - May 14, 2009

Building on this great research on the history of the thunderstick, your readers would appreciate an expose on the orgins of the giant foam number one hand.

10. Suranyi - May 15, 2009

I wonder how long it’s going to take you to stop converting everything into Canadian money.

11. Sub - May 16, 2009

Mulqueen if I had a foam hand right now I would punch you in the face with it.. on another note, where the F is the Zeff post!?!?

12. Dyson - May 16, 2009

You know Suranyi for someone who has lived in Korea for so long, your lack of posting on this blog is somewhat concerning.

I can understand the Mulloskeys for not posting on this blog, because we all know they were running a huge shell game, telling us they were in Korea, while chilling in Brampton at Tumbro’s house.

For shame Suranyi. I am withdrawing all of the money I have earned in hockey pools from TD and switching it into Bonds with Sub. At least Sub makes an effort with these kind of things.


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