The baseball season doesn’t start properly until April, although the first pre-season friendlies will be underway next week. Even so, if I’m walking past a baseball stadium I’ll always have a look and a listen to see if there is anything going on.
As I passed the Jamsil stadium on my way to the Seoul United football game taking place nearby I could hear voices from inside. I was fairly sure that they were from inside the stadium and not the ones from inside my head, mainly because they didn’t keep telling me to “Grow up, sonny“.
I walked about halfway around the outside of the stadium until I came to the main entrance. There were a lot of people milling about, some dressed in full baseball kit, others clutching boxes of chicken and six packs of beer. I tried to get in but was stopped by a security guard. As a few of the people were leaving and getting onto coaches, it looked to me as if it was some sort of pre-season jolly, possibly for fans, maybe for a junior team. I left them to it and went to have a look at the Olympic Stadium and see if anything was going on there.
A little later I was walking around the other side of the baseball stadium and I noticed a couple of blokes standing around on the next level up. I went up the ramp and after spotting that they had staff badges on, asked them if there was a game on. When they confirmed that there was, I asked if I could go in and watch. Unlike the earlier security man, they couldn’t give a toss and so I headed into the seating area behind the plate.
It looked like a kid’s game was going on and after picking up a programme from a pile near the entrance I learned that it was a University tournament. I settled down in one of the posh seats with a table directly behind the plate and watched Yonsei University take on Konkuk University.
I’d never sat in a seat that close to the action at Jamsil before, those seats are always sold out long before I get around to buying a ticket, but it turns out that I hadn’t been missing much. Whilst it was great to be so close to the action, the netting that stops you being hit between the eyes by a misplaced shot was just too intrusive. I much prefer to watch from a distance where you don’t notice it as much.
There was plenty of debris lying around, mainly empty beer cans and fried chicken bones. Just what you would expect from students really, they probably scattered them around to make the large stadium seem less intimidating and more like their bedsits.
The standard of play was as bad as their housekeeping and I wondered if anyone on a sporting scholarship was in detention. Some of the pitches bounced, whilst others flew over the catcher’s head. Runs were gained by stealing bases rather than hitting the ball and it was clear that the formative years of these students had been spent in maths hagwons rather than outside in the fresh air.
It was a pleasant way to pass a bit of time though, and the two hundred strong crowd seemed to be enjoying themselves. For those of you who are interested in results it was the highest scoring baseball game I’ve ever been to despite there being no possibility of anyone hitting a home run unless an eagle swooped down and carried the ball off and dropped it over the wall. By the end of the third innings Yonsei had built up a 23-0 lead. As the games were being contested over just four innings, it was looking fairly desperate for Konkuk at that stage. Still, it will give them a feel for what it’s like not to start their dissertations until the night before they are due to be handed in.
To the delight of their fans though, Konkuk got a run in their final innings, eventually going down by twenty-five runs to one.
With the pre-season games still a week away, and the season proper not starting until next month it was nice to see some baseball earlier than I could have expected, despite the standard. By way of a bonus, as I was leaving I caught the eye of the security bloke who had turned me away earlier and gave him the smuggest grin I manage.