Hanwha Eagles v Nexen Heroes, Sunday March 18th 2012, 1pm

After watching the FA Cup first round tie between Cheongju Jikji and Ajou University the previous day, Jen and I had stayed over in Cheongju for a pre-season baseball game. There are plenty of motels in the area around the bus stations and we selected one on the basis of its towers, stone cladding and the fake bronze bust in its doorway.

Nice bust.

It was exceptional value at 30,000 won, with a 42“ television, a computer in the room and far fewer hairs in the bed or bathroom than you would expect at that price. The only thing that it was lacking was a control to turn the heating down and so we had to regulate the temperature by sleeping with the window open.

The baseball wasn’t due to start until 1pm and so in the morning we got a taxi to Bumosanseong fortress wall. There are two fortress walls in Cheongju, Bangdangsanseong and Bumosanseong. Don’t worry, I won’t test you on the names. Bangdangsanseong is better, but Bumosanseong is closer to where we were staying and so that is where we went.

The taxi took us to within about fifty yards of the top of Mt. Bumo and we got decent views in all directions. The wall didn’t appear to have been restored and a lot of the time we were walking on top of it. It didn’t take long to get all of the way around though and as we had time to spare we walked all of the way back to the town centre.

It's just like that one in China.

Jen had stuff to do and so I went to the baseball by myself.  A taxi dropped me off outside Cheongju Baseball Stadium ten minutes before the start. I’m glad I didn’t have a car to park as the car park was full. In fact, all the roads leading in and out were packed with cars as well, parked three abreast and stopping anyone from leaving out of turn.

I was quite surprised by how busy it was. This was a pre-season game between two teams that aren’t particularly well supported. Although I suppose that Hanwha playing in Cheongju rather than their usual stadium at Daejeon probably had a lot to do with it. As did free admission and people pining for some baseball after the winter. So I shouldn’t have been suprised really.

The stall-holders were out in force too, mainly selling chicken, silkworms and beer. I didn’t bother and just went straight into the outfield section of the stadium.

On the way in.

Cheongju Baseball Park has a capacity of twelve thousand. At the time the game started I’d estimate that it was around half full. People continued to turn up over the next couple of hours and I’d say the attendance peaked at around ten thousand. Of course, there were no seats to be had later on as latecomers had to compete with the handbags and boxes of chicken that were occupying the remaining places.

You need a chair for your beer.

For those who hadn’t brought their own food, there was plenty available inside, although I’m not sure if this woman was selling the stuff on her head or just replenishing the picnic lunch for her family.

A quick snack.

I was impressed with the stadium. It had ten rows of seating all of the way around, with a roof over the posh seats behind the plate. Ideal for a sunny day really.

The view fron the outfield.

Hanwaha got off to a decent start in the first innings with the popular Kim Tae Kyun cracking a three run homer to within a few yards of me.

Kim Tae Kyun - Hanwha Eagles

Hanwha got a another run in the fourth and then increased their lead further in the fifth when Jung Won Seok made it five-nil with a hit that again landed just in front of me. A fella in the crowd actually caught that one and prevented the usual scramble for the ball from blokes old enough to know much better.

Jung Won Seok collects a quid from each of his team mates after his home run.

Nexen didn’t really put up much of a show on the day, but that didn’t matter. The home crowd were happy just sat in the sunshine watching Hanwha knock the ball around at a stadium that they rarely visit. As was I.

That's not a bad seat.

I had a bus to catch so left in the seventh before Hanwha added another run in my absence to take the game six-nil. I expect that both of these teams will struggle again this season, particularly Nexen, but that’s for their fans to worry about, not me.

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