After watching the goalless draw between Jeju United and Jeonbuk Motors, Jen and I wandered out of the Jeju Ora Stadium and called into the baseball park next door. I’d have been happy just to have a quick nose around the pitch and empty stands but we got lucky again. There was another one of those sixty-four team tournaments going on for amateur sides, similar to the one that we had stumbled across in Chuncheon the week before.
There was a game just finishing as we went in, but with another scheduled for six o’clock we got some food and drinks from a stall outside and then went back to sit in the posh seats and wait for the action. The light was starting to fade, but with a beer in hand and the 1950m Hallasan providing the backdrop, a virtually empty small-town baseball stadium is still a decent place to be.
The tournament had started on the previous day and the game that we would see would be a quarter-final tie between Zeeno and Incheon Munhaks. I’ve no idea at all about the Zeeno team, but assumed that Incheon Munhaks are either made up of locals who originate from Incheon or else they have entered the tournament in order to have a lad’s weekend away in Jeju. Then again, maybe someone just had a spare set of Munhak shirts.
Each match in the tournament would last for four innings, which for those of us with a limited attention span should work out nicely at around an hour and a half. The stadium was slightly smaller than the one we’d seen in Chuncheon last week, with a capacity of eight thousand. To be fair, that didn’t matter too much as there were only twenty-four people watching. As two of those were actually stood outside looking over the fence then they probably shouldn’t count in my official attendance figure. I think Jen and I were probably the only people in there who weren’t either players or related to them.
Zeeno were in black and batted first, with the Incheon starting pitcher varying his initial deliveries between 55 kmph and 84 kmph. After watching professional baseball it did seem incredibly slow and I was surprised that more of the balls weren’t whacked straight back over his head.
There was a lot of base-sneaking going on. In fact most of the batters seemed to have a reasonable chance of eventually getting around if they could just get to first base.
When it was time for the Munhaks to bat they had to contend with a Zeeno starting pitcher who was quite a bit faster than his opposite number, getting up to 119 kmph at one point. He wasn’t particularly accurate though and in the fading light I was expecting someone, possibly a spectator, maybe even me, to be hit between the eyes with a stray delivery.
The players did their best in the twilight for the first two innings, with the sun having almost set by the time the floodlights came on at half past six. It seemed like a different game then, a proper game, rather than something between a few mates who were about to be called in from the dark by their Mams to have their tea.
For what it’s worth Zeeno had the game in the bag early on and by the time we reached the end of the fourth they had built up a healthy 13-3 advantage. There was only one home run in the whole game. Whilst the ball didn’t clear the outfield wall, it did just about reach it and that was far enough away to enable the batsman to get all the way around before the ball was retrieved and returned.
True to form, it was all over in an hour and a half. We could have stayed and watched the next one but we were getting hungry. All we had eaten since lunchtime was a hot dog on a stick that had been deep fried with some sort of bread wrapped around it and then chips stuck to it. It was more like one of those German hand grenades with a handle from the First World War than something intended to be eaten.
We sloped off to a restaurant around the corner and had a barbecue of Jeju black pig and Jeju horse. The Jeju horses are quite a lot smaller than normal ones, so I did wonder if we might get a whole one. We didn’t, but with the black pig as well, there was sufficient. However, the thought that we might be eating one of the horses that we had watched at Jeju race track on a previous visit did cross my mind.
Horse wasn’t the only slightly unusual item on the menu. They also had cat soup. If I hadn’t already eaten the hot dog hand grenade, a pig and a horse then I might just have found room for a bowl of cat soup. Next time.