Late change in travel plans – so I was off to the U.S. quicker than expected so this weeks update is on baseball in Korea. I was suppose to see Paul McCartney this week but he was ill and has to cancel – that would have created some conflict having to miss that at the last minute. Hopefully he will re-schedule but I already got a refund so it doesn’t look good. So instead of seeing Paul McCartney Wednesday I ended seeing my buddy LVL in Houston.
Back to baseball – If baseball were this exciting in the USA, maybe I and many others would like it. Korean baseball is different than American-
• Teams are sponsored, by companies such as Samsung, LG, and Kia
• Teams share stadiums
• Teams have multiple home fields within an area
• Leads to most game have crowds split 50/50 for each team
• People really really care – more like a college football game environment
We went to a game at a stadium built Olympic baseball in 1988. It was a decent stadium but nothing compared to the U.S. stadiums but very good access to public transportation and the surrounding area was Jamsil which has restaurants/bars/clubs as far as you can see. So – similar to the desired results in the U.S. for re-development around a stadium. The same Food was a combination of Burger King, KFC, local Korean fast food places, and 7/11’s with the same pricing as outside the stadium. Tickets were affordable. You could bring in food in plastic bags or boxes of chicken. Almost everybody was wearing the color of one of the team. We saw the Doosan Bears host the Hanwha Eagles (yes – nicknames are in English). We picked Doosan to cheer on since they were the home team and we were not sure which side we were assigned to and figured out later our ticket had orange trim which meant we were in the Hanwha section. But we were on the edge so my Doosan Bears thunder sticks were not too out of place.
With regard to beer, there was a limit to how much you could take into the game (as much as you could carry in plastic bags), $3 drafts, 12-packs at the 7/11, and a guy walking around serving drafts with a mini-keg on his back. A lot of merriment but no fights, no falling down drunk people, and the interaction between the fans of the two teams was positive.
As for the game, quite exciting and I tried to post a video on the Hanwha fans doing a chant, down 7-0 in the second inning…this went on for 4 hours but it wouldn’t upload. Hanwha won 12-8 eventually.
I asked some Samsung employees the following week how allegiances work – if they grew up in Seoul rooting for Doosan or LG but then they worked for Samsung (who has a team Samsung Lions in Daegu – 2 hours from Seoul) who do they root for? Answer was always hometown team…unless of course you are new to Korea like me and then you must be Samsung Lions fan. With regard to soccer though it is expected that one roots for Chelsea as the value of the Samsung brand increases when Chelsea is in the Champions League and in the running for the EPL title.