Doosan Bears v Lotte Giants, Wednesday September 29th 2010, 6pm.

 It’s play-off time. No more meaningless regular season games, we are into the stuff that matters now. The first best of five contest was between the Doosan Bears and the Lotte Giants, with the winners then taking on Samsung Lions for the right to a place in the Korean Series against SK Wyverns. The Giants play in Busan, whilst the Bears are based three subway stops away from me at Jamsil stadium. They play the first two games at Jamsil, the third and fourth (if a fourth is necessary) at Busan and then (again if necessary) a fifth and final game at Jamsil.  

I’d popped along to the stadium the day before at lunchtime to see if I could get tickets but the offices were shut. I suspected that they were probably available on-line or had been at one point, but the English section of the Bears website wasn’t a lot of help.  

Not to worry, there are always tickets to be had outside. I don’t think I’ve ever not got into a game that I’ve wanted to, although sometimes I’ve paid a bit more than I should have.  I arranged to meet Jen outside the stadium at twenty past six, which was the earliest I could get there after work. By the time I arrived she had already texted me to let me know she had managed to get a couple of  tickets. She’d bought two 15,000 outfield tickets for 20,000 each. That’s not the sort of profit that will let the touts retire.  

Doosan fans, early on.

The outfield is free seating and at first we struggled to find seats. I’d say it was probably ninety percent full at that stage, with most of the remaining seats being occupied by coats, handbags and boxes of fried chicken. People were standing three or four deep behind the railings at the back of the terrace. We eventually found a couple of empty seats on the first base side of the stadium, which meant that we were in with the Doosan Bears fans. The crowd, including the outfield,  was fairly equally split between the two teams which surprised me when I considered that Busan is two hundred miles away. Looking across at the main stand, quite a few of the seats had yet to be filled. I suppose if you have a reserved seat and can’t get there for the start, it’s not so much of a big deal. 

We hadn’t missed much in that first half hour. One innings had been completed and it was still scoreless. It was noticeably colder though than the last time we’d been here. In fact it was noticeably colder than the previous weekend. It seemed as if we had gone from summer to winter within three days. Autumn is supposed to be the best season over here and I’d been hoping that it lasted a little bit longer than seventy-two hours. 

Something else that had changed were the player’s averages. Whenever a new batter comes in his number of home runs and average is shown on the scoreboard. It’s very handy for someone like me who cannot tell one player from another, to be able to see which of them are the high scoring players. Not now though, all the averages are set to zero again for the play-offs. For the first couple of innings I was under the impression that both coaches had for reasons unknown sent out teams of rookies for their biggest game of the season so far. 

Both sets of fans were entertaining, the home fans all blew up and waved white balloons early on. 

Doosan fans with balloons.

Lotte Giants responded with a couple of large surfers that must have taken some manhandling to get them to an away game.  

How did they sneak those in?

They then followed this up with the wearing of blown up orange plastic Lotte supermarket bags on their heads.  

Look closely, the orange things are supermarket bags tied to their ears.

Impressive, if a little mad, particularly when one of them would  have to go to the bar by himself.  

It looks better in a crowd.

Finally the Doosan Bears fans managed to distribute sparklers to everyone in their section bar us.  

That's much better than plastic bags tied to your ears.

It’s probably not surprising that I wasn’t given a sparkler as I have a bit of history with them. As a small child I was given one to hold and as it burnt downwards towards my hand I passed it over to the other hand, grasping the burnt, but still extremely hot, other end.  

Because she was sat next to me, Jen wasn't allowed a sparkler either.

That was the last time I was trusted with a sparkler. Perhaps my Mam had been in touch with the Doosan fans to make them aware of the risks of letting me join in.  

Not that I'm bothered, but even small kids got a sparkler.

The game itself was close and the advantage switched around early on. The Giants went two up in the second innings, causing the three Doosan supporting girls in front of us to complain bitterly to anyone nearby who cheered and to suggest that they clear off to the other side of the stadium. Generally there isn’t any bad feeling amongst rival supporters here, or at least I haven’t noticed it. Perhaps with the stakes being a bit higher, the passion is starting to show a little more.  

The Doosan fans cheered up in the fourth innings as the Bears took a 3-2 lead, before relinquishing it in the fifth as the Giants nudged back in front at 4-3. In the sixth it was Doosan’s turn again as two more runs took them into a 5-4 lead, only for Lotte to level it up at five all in the seventh.  

Still level after the 8th.

After a scoreless penultimate innings it all went wrong for the Bears in the ninth as a Jeon Joon Woo home run for Lotte sparked a Doosan collapse that led to another four runs in quick succession. We left with the score at 10-5 and that’s how it finished.  

There are plenty of restaurants around the Sports Complex area and as neither of us had had our tea that’s where we went. It’s a fairly busy area and as we ate the chicken that had been cooked in a big bowl at our table we were able switch attention between the match highlights on the telly and watching the drunk blokes outside trying it get their even drunker work colleagues home safely.  

Near the Sports Complex.

If the play-off isn’t over after the first three games, I’ll probably nip down to Busan on Sunday for the fourth one.

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