I’d been saving a visit to GS Champions Park for a day when I had the time to get there by walking alongside the Han River. It’s probably about three and a half hours from Yeoksam. You head for the Olympic stadium, then follow the river eastwards, crossing somewhere convenient before reaching Champions Park on the North bank.
The plans that I’d had for the day before had been scuppered by the weather forecast and so Jen and I thought we’d give it a trial run by walking eastwards along the south bank of the Han and trying to spot Champions Park from the opposite side of the river. It shouldn’t have been too difficult to find from what I’d noticed on the maps, there are three football pitches and a baseball park, plus a few buildings.
It didn’t quite work though and whilst we saw everything from crowded outdoor swimming pools to the ongoing construction of a new bridge we didn’t manage to spot Champions Park. To make matters worse it turned out to be a hotter day than we had expected and after nearly four hours of walking we were both quite badly sunburnt and probably suffering from a touch of sunstroke too.
The following day I scrapped my plans to walk to the game, whilst Jen took it a step further and cancelled all baseball related activities. She did however give me a bit of guidance on dealing with the taxi driver by suggesting that I adding ‘uh’ suffixes to ‘GS’, ‘Champions’ and ‘Park’. It worked a treat, or at least sufficiently well for him to guess what to look for on his satnav and I arrived ten minutes before the scheduled one o’clock start. Unfortunately, as so often happens at these second tier Futures League games, the starting time had been brought forward and the game was already into the sixth innings.
Still, an hour or so of baseball is better than nothing and with it being another red-hot day it might even have been better than three hours of baseball. The small covered area that was being used by spectators was full and so I just took my place on a grassy bank behind the plate.
There were maybe another seventy or so people watching, the odd family having a picnic, a few who were probably friends and family of the players involved and, as ever, a couple of dozen young girls who were either WAGs or looked as if they had ambitions in that direction.
Whilst there were plenty of LG shirts in the crowd most of the interest was in the Army players. It’s not surprising really as they will all have been successful pro players before their National Service stint. The pitcher Oh Hyun Taek seemed pretty popular, as did the catcher Park Dong Won.
One Army fella was deemed good enough to be walked every time he came out to bat. How rubbish is that, never being given a chance to ever hit the ball? Still I suppose it’s a lot better than spending your Sunday on guard duty or marching up and down the parade ground.
I haven’t bothered to check the standings for the Futures League but you’d think that both the Army and Police teams would do pretty well. I imagine that it would be quite embarrassing if the players were to lose to the reserve teams of the clubs that they would normally play for.
Sangmu had already been a couple of runs ahead when I arrived and they steadily increased their lead as the game went on. As the final innings drew to a close the WAGs and potential WAGs gathered by the walkway to the buses, like mothers at the school gate.
The final score was 10-6 to the visitors and an hour after arriving I was in a taxi again, heading back to Yeoksam.