As we enter the second half of the season in Major League Baseball and teams are working harder than ever to reach the post-season, it seems only fitting to talk about baseball games in South Korea. Baseball is one of four sports that have professional organizations in Korea, the others being football (or soccer as we know it in North America), basketball, and volleyball. Korean Professional Baseball is made up of 8 teams and is expanding to 9 in 2013. A number of professional Korean baseball players have played in Major League Baseball, including the very first Korean player Chan Ho Park, and the only current Korean player, Shin Soo Choo of the Cleveland Indians.
Both Arienne and I love baseball, both watching and playing the sport, so we were very interested to see how a baseball game in Korea would compare. And boy were we in for something very unique… Continue reading to hear what our first experience at a Korean baseball game was like.
Donning his white gloves, the man stepped to the microphone and prepared to address the crowd. Public service announcement? No. Sales pitch? Nope. Cheer conductor? You got it.
It was my first time going to a Korean baseball game, and boy was I surprised. (Note: there are some other words I might choose, but children might be reading this) You see, I have been playing and watching baseball since I can remember. I am on top of everything baseball related, even all the way over here in Korea. Being somewhat of a self professed baseball expert, I found myself at a loss when faced with this white-gloved individual.
Now let’s think about this for a second. Seriously… a cheer conductor at a baseball game!?!? “What does this cheer conductor do Tristan?” you might ask. “Well he conducts the cheers,” would be my frustratingly obvious response. And I’m not just talking about let’s go (insert team name) rah rah rah type cheers. I’m talking about full blown songs with choreographed dance moves, rhythmic slaps of noise makers, different chants for each player when they come to bat, and more… at a baseball game!?!?
Baseball, my friends, is a game of subtle nuances. A game that due to its (sometimes painstaking) pace allows it to be meticulously studied and absorbed by a nation of fans who appreciate the slower things in life. A hot dog, perhaps a refreshing over priced beer, the crack of the bat, the umpire’s call, and the right to occasionally express ones disapproval of some on field occurrence. These are the things a true baseball fan looks for at a baseball game.
Folks, it may come as a surprise to you, but the wave is considered one of the lowest forms of fan support possible at the game. I can assure you that in baseball havens such as Boston, Chicago, and New York you will not see the wave make its way through the stands. In Korea on the other hand, there are more variations of the wave than number of games won by the Toronto Maple Leafs.
1. Standard horizontal around the stadium wave.
2. Fast motion wave.
3. Slo-mo wave.
4. Vertical bottom to top wave.
5. Half the stadium reverberating wave.
It goes without saying that all of this hoobaloo was not tickling the fancy of yours truly. However, Koreans seemingly had prepared some redeeming qualities about their Baseball game experience. First, there are no restrictions on anything that you want to bring to the game. Bags full of beer? No problem. Buckets of chicken? Sure thing. A cooler full of food? Go for it! Second, a Korean baseball game is no place for price gouging on food, drinks, or even on the tickets to the game. Third, despite team fans sometimes sharing the same home stadium, there are no fights, brawls, or other nonsense going on amid the crowd. So its not all doom and gloom for a true baseball fan.
Now to be fair, after all the griping about proper baseball and what not, I will offer my conclusion and antithesis in two delightful sentences. I will confess that years of baseball playing and fandom have given me a rather snooty approach to assessing facets of the game. To be honest, for the casual or non-fan of baseball, going to a Korean baseball game can be a really fun experience and should definitely be given a shot during any visit to the country. There really isn’t anything quite like it.