Nexen Heroes v KIA Tigers, Sunday 6th June, 5pm

I’m on a bit of a roll with this baseball malarkey and last night I went to my third game in five days. That’s part timer stuff with baseball though. I picked up a fixture list when I was at the Hanwha Eagles game the day before and discovered that in the five month season that runs from late March to late August, they have a match just about every night of the week apart from Mondays. Each team plays 124 games in 148 days, with each game being between three and four hours long.

I wondered about whether they sell season tickets and who would buy them. You would have to be pretty keen to intend to go to sixty two home games, sometimes on up to six consecutive nights as well. Mind you, the fans do seem dedicated; there is also a big away following at all the games, often up to half the crowd, so it wouldn’t surprise me if some fans saw most of those 124 matches. You would need a winter off after a season like that.

Tonight’s game was Nexen Heroes against KIA Tigers. Nexen were the home team and they have a stadium at Mokdong, which is about an hour away from me. There is a football ground right next to the baseball stadium but from what I can gather nobody plays there these days. It was about a ten minute walk from the subway to the stadium, the route lined with people selling those inflatable sticks that you bang together, beer, fried chicken and other snacks. I bought a general admission ticket for 12,000 won and went straight in. At the turnstiles security were confiscating soju, but didn’t seem bothered about beer.

Unlike the other stadiums that I’d been to, this one didn’t have seating in the outfield, just along the sides. It was full though, with people having to move their bags and food off seats to allow latecomers to sit down. There seemed to be more fans from KIA than from Nexen and both sets kept up the noise all game. Neither team had cheerleaders though, just a couple of camp blokes who led the chants.

After the comment about the lack of a starting pitcher from the Doosan fan the previous night, I kept an eye on the pitching this time. The starting pitcher for Nexen struggled a bit, eight of his first nine balls were wides and the KIA Tigers batsmen seemed to spend more time walking to first base than hitting the ball. Tigers took an early lead and were 4-0 up after three innings. The starting pitcher was replaced about half way through and his replacement was himself taken off a couple of innings later. It doesn’t seem like cricket where you would rotate you bowlers. In baseball it seems like you bowl your best pitcher until he is either exhausted or is getting hit too easily and then you bring on your next best pitcher and so on. It seems a big workload for a six games a week schedule.

Nexen hit back in the fifth innings with consecutive home runs and drew level at 4-4. It was still all square at the end of nine innings and they went into extra time. I thought they played an extra three innings each, but something I’ve read this morning leads me to believe that they might just play single innings until someone wins, but to a maximum of three extra.

I didn’t stay till the end though. Three and a half hours was enough for me. The extra hour that three more innings would warrant is fine if it’s your team that is playing, but as a neutral who doesn’t care who wins, I’d seen as much as I wanted to for that night. So I can’t even tell you who won. Maybe I’ll have to pick a team to follow and try and build up some allegiance. Doosan Bears seem to have the prettiest cheerleaders, so I’ll perhaps I’ll overlook their lack of a starting pitcher and give them a bit of a try.

And that’s it from Korea for a couple of weeks. I’m off to the World Cup next where amongst other games I’ll be seeing South Korea take on Argentina. It’s the game that Lee Dong Gook is aiming to be fully fit for, so I might get to see the Lion King come off the bench to take on Lionel Messi and co.

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