Samsung Lions v Hanwha Eagles, Sunday 15th August 2010, 5pm.

The regular baseball season is drawing to a close and so I thought that whilst there’s still time I would try and get to see a game at a stadium that I hadn’t yet visited. There are eight baseball teams in the league, but as Doosan Bears and LG Twins share the Jamsil Stadium there are only seven different ball parks. Actually that may not be true as I’ve a suspicion that one of the teams from the south might play their home games at more than one stadium. Anyway, I’ve been to four of the stadiums so far and as Lotte Giants were playing away I was left with a choice of Samsung Lions or KIA Tigers.

Samsung Lions play in Daegu and when I found that the Daegu K-League team were also at home on the same day it was an easy choice to make. The football was listed as kicking off at four in the afternoon, with the baseball starting an hour later. I’d been to watch Daegu before and their stadium is only about thirty yards from the baseball park, so it seemed a pretty good piece of scheduling. I could watch their match against Pohang Steelers and then call into the baseball game which by that time should be no more than a couple of innings old.

Jen asked me if I’d like to accompany her to a barbecue that a friend of hers was having near Gyeongju on the Saturday and as Gyeongju is only an hour away from Daegu it all fitted together very nicely.

We got the bus from Seoul to Gyeongju late on Saturday morning. It was meant to be early on Saturday morning but when we turned up to get the tickets it was two and a half hours until the next departure. The silver lining was that it enabled me to get an overdue haircut. It’s probably thirty five years since I’ve been for a haircut with someone else and in those days I used to go with my Dad. To my frustration the barber would invariably direct his questions to him rather than me. In that mid-seventies era when it was a major source of embarrassment at school to have even the lobes of your ears exposed, you did not want the barber checking with your oblivious to fashion father as to whether he had taken enough off yet.

Generally over here, I get by in the barbers with a combination of mime and gesture and I’ve tended to survive. However, once the hairdresser realised that Jen could speak Korean, it was as if I was six years old.

“Does he want it grading at the back?” and “Should I shampoo it for him?” were asked and answered without any reference whatsoever to me. I half expected to be told to visit the toilet before I left and to be given a lollipop for sitting still. The shampooing was very enjoyable though, with my head being rinsed for a couple of minutes with cold water. The temperatures in Seoul seemed to have taken another step upwards lately and I could quite happily have foregone the barbecue, the football and the baseball and just remained in the barber’s chair all weekend with the cold water washing over my head.

The bus to Gyeongju took four hours and then we had another short connection to get to Doug’s house out in the countryside. Unfortunately our late arrival meant that the original barbecue had finished and the guests departed. Doug was a great host though and we spent a few hours with him and his girlfriend, eating and drinking in his front garden miles from anywhere, with a backdrop of the hills and his dog at our feet. Doug grows his own vegetables, makes his own cheese and had apple makkgeolli to supplement the beer. Whilst I love my life, every now and again I get a glimpse of someone elses and can’t help but feel that I’m missing out somehow.

The view from Doug's front garden.

At about ten o’clock we got a lift back to Gyeongju and checked into the nearest hotel to the bus station. This was quite a fortuitous choice as it’s the best hotel I’ve stayed in over here so far. For the connoisseurs of the idiosyncrasies of Korean love motels our room was on the top floor and had a six foot wide circular skylight above the bed so that we could look at the stars if there wasn’t much on telly. It opened and closed with a remote control and seemed a little like the sort of gadget that a villain in a James Bond film might use to launch missiles from an island hideaway. The room had disco lights in the bathroom and a small dance floor that also came complete with its own multi-coloured light show. We couldn’t quite work out how to switch off the flashing dance floor lights and so had to resort to covering it with a towel to diminish the effect. It had the usual love motel staples of a big flat screen telly and computer, plus the added bonus of a complementary bottle of red wine. I searched in vain for a humidor full of havana cigars but had I found them they would not have seemed out of place.

The dancefloor.

The next morning we went for a look around Gyeongju. It’s a town that seems to have a predilection for barley bread, with a shop selling it every five yards or so. We were going to look at the tombs rather than visit the bakers though, and in particular Cheonmachong, or the Heavenly Horse Tomb. This was the grave of some unknown royal from Silla kingdom and it had been excavated a few years previously giving visitors the opportunity to have a wander about inside. Disappointingly all the artifacts inside were replicas which made the sign stating that visitors should show respect towards what was an empty fake coffin a little bemusing. On the plus side, however, it was air-conditioned and so well worth the visit regardless of the authenticity of the artifacts.

The real stuff is in a museum somewhere.

We had a wander aroound the rest of the park, which resembled tellytubbyland, and looked at the other unexcavated tombs before getting the bus to Daegu where I had spicy tuna bibimbap for lunch.

Tinkywinky, La La, Poe and whatever the other one was called.

 This version of the rice dish was different to those I’ve had before as it’s eaten hot. It’s known as dolsot bibimbap and served in a red hot stone pot that I did my best not to burn myself on. Its an interesting variation and I quite like the way that the rice gets a bit crusty where it’s been in contact with the hot stone bowl.

We walked to the stadiums only to discover that the time of the football game had been changed and both matches now started at 5pm. Bugger. There was a large banner advertising the football and you could see where a patch saying `5pm’ had been stuck over the previous `4pm’. Quite why they couldnt coordinate the start times to accommodate fans who would like to see both games baffled me. The last time I’d watched Daegu, the conclusion of the baseball game coincided with half time in the football and the Daegu commercial staff were trying to entice the baseball fans into the football match for free. This time though, it was one or the other and as I’d seen Daegu play in their stadium before I decided that I’d rather watch the baseball.

After the previous weeks visit to the outfield at the Jamsil Stadium I thought it would be quite good to be a bit closer to the action and we got seats in the posh bit right behind the catcher for twenty thousand won each. They were front row and with a table in front of us for food and drink. The only downside was that it looked as if the roof didn‘t quite extend far enough to protect the first couple of rows if it rained. However, it was hot and sunny so I wasn’t too concerned.

On the way in we were given a bottle of chocolate water each. Yes, chocolate water. I’d heard of chocolate milk before, but this was a variation on those bottles of water that are usually flavoured with fruit or possibly more likely just sugar. I tried it, out of curiosity, and it was terrible. I like chocolate and I like water, but together, I dont think it will catch on. Fortunately there was another freebie, apple juice, to take away the taste and if that didn‘t work there was plenty of beer for sale.

The stadium was probably the smallest capacity of all those I’ve been to and there were plenty of empty seats. Samsung Lions are pretty much certain of their play-off place and perhaps Hanwha Eagles aren’t much of a draw. The home fans were loud enough, singing along at one point to Slade’s `Cum On Feel The Noize‘.

Like a lot of the games I’ve been to recently, the innings were being rattled through at a fair pace and within three quarters of an hour we had already seen the first three of them. It would have been even quicker had it not been for a lengthy delay for treatment after the batter had mistaken the catcher’s hand for the ball and tried to hit it out of the stadium.

Hanwha had the best of the early play including picking up a run when successive hits deep into the outfield that were both caught were in the air long enough to allow the bloke on first base to eventually make it all the way home. By the fourth innings though a Samsung home run had put the home side into a 3-2 lead.

At six o’clock it started to pour down with absolutely torrential rain that had the players running for the dugout and Jen and I scurrying to the back of the stand. Ground staff were quickly out with tarpaulins but the water was lying in pools around each of the bases. After a while I managed to get a glimpse of the Daegu game in the football stadium next door. The players were still out there, but it looked as if all of the fans were in the concourse.

I was waiting for the announcement that the match would be abandoned when the rain started to ease off and within a few minutes a combination of the drainage and blokes with brushes had cleared most of the water away. At seven o’clock we were off again. The only problem for us was that our front row seats were still ankle deep in water. Again the staff did the business and the excess was soon swept away and the seats and table dried off. We got another forty five minutes of action before the next thunderstorm arrived with the scores level at four apiece. We moved further back again, this time taking the seats of some people who had decided that enough was enough. A tramp had come in off the streets, more for a bit of shelter than the prospect of seeing the remaining innings I imagine, and he occupied his time by collecting up the uneaten fried chicken that people had left in their hurry to get away. He didnt seemed too interested in the chocolate water though.

We waited for the next lull in the rain and at half past eight we headed off to get the KTX not knowing if the game would be completed or abandoned. As we neared Seoul the baseball scores came up on the screen in the carriage and one of them had won 5-4. I don‘t remember which team won, but then I didn‘t really care. It’s still all about the occasion with baseball for me at the moment, rather than the result.

2 Responses to “Samsung Lions v Hanwha Eagles, Sunday 15th August 2010, 5pm.”

  1. parvovirus in dogs Says:

    A nice simple article but it reads as though the writters first language is not English. An editor would be welcome.

  2. Electric Shower · Says:

    disco lights with built-in laser x-y scanner are the coolest stuff that you can add to your disco room ..;

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