Samsung Lions v Kia Tigers, Sunday 15th April 2012, 11am

One of the things that I’m trying to do this year is to see more baseball outside of the eight team top-level KBO League. Usually that involves stumbling across a run-down stadium in a one-horse town and then hoping that some sort of local tournament is taking place. To be fair, it’s an approach that has worked reasonably well so far.

My latest discovery though, is the Futures League. It’s basically a reserve league for the KBO clubs, supplemented by the Police and Army teams. Like most reserve leagues, it allows young players the opportunity to press their case for a place in the proper team whilst those recovering from injuries can get back to full fitness in an environment where winning isn’t necessarily the main focus.

The appeal to me is that they don’t play the games in the usual stadiums and so it’s chance to visit some smaller venues with virtually nobody there. What’s so good about that? Not sure really, although there’s definitely an element of ticking places off lists and it’s quite nice sometimes to watch something without a load of strangers making a racket.

Anyway, Jen and I had been watching a couple of football matches in Cheonan the day before. Afterwards we caught the KTX to Daegu, which is the nearest big station to Gyeongsan. Gyeongsan being the place where we intended to watch the Samsung Lions second team take on their KIA Tigers counterparts the following day.

There are always plenty of places to stay in the areas around stations and the combination of neon palm trees and onion domes on the roof was sufficient to draw us in to the thirty-five thousand won per night Paradise Motel.

Paradise.

Just in case the single free condom in the complimentary toiletry pack wasn’t enough, they had thoughtfully provided a vending machine full of them right next to the reception window.

Something for the weekend, sir?

The room itself was fine with a big tv, computer and as far as I could see no hairs belonging to the previous occupants of the bed. There wasn’t much of a view, with the narrow alleyway beyond the window obscured by bars and barbed wire. But, it’s Daegu city centre and there wouldn’t have been much of a view regardless. Fortunately we were only one floor up and so we probably wouldn’t have needed to use the window as an escape route if a guest had tried to burn the place down in protest at having to pay for a second condom.

The view.

At noon the next day we hailed a taxi for the journey to Gyeongsan. Jen, who speaks very good Korean, was extremely specific with the instructions to the driver. She told him the town that we wanted to go to, Gyeongsan, then she told him the area of the town. He nodded and grinned. Happy that he knew the town and the area of the town, she then told him that when we got to Gyeongsan it was the baseball stadium that we wanted to go to. He repeated back the word ‘baseball’ and set off.

Twenty minutes later we arrived at the Daegu Baseball Stadium, home of the Samsung Lions and venue for a first-team game that day between Samsung and Nexen. Jen explained it all again to him, re-emphasising that the name of the town that we wanted to go to was Gyeongsan and pointing out that the name of the town that we had asked him to go to differed from the one that we were in.

Not Gyeongsan.

He seemed baffled, as if the idea that other towns could have baseball stadiums as well was a concept too bizarre to dwell upon. Then he suggested that this game would be better. When we politely insisted upon the original plan he seemed to mark us down as trouble makers and quoted what I suspect he felt was a prohibitive thirty-five thousand won fare to take us to the place that he’d already agreed to take us to twenty minutes earlier. That’s fine. Just drive.

Half an hour later, we arrived in Gyeongsan. The driver behaved as if he had been caught up in a tornado and then deposited in a random town hundreds of miles away. He kangarooed along the main street, accosting random passers-by with a variety of questions that no doubt included whether he would need a visa and if the water was safe to drink. We paid him up and left him to what was likely to be an uncomfortable few hours driving around in circles before he chanced upon the road home.

Fortunately the next cab driver knew exactly where the baseball stadium was and a few minutes later we were there. It was ten minutes or so after the scheduled one o’clock start time, but that’s not a big deal in a game that can last for three or four hours. It wasn’t as if it was likely to sell out.

The stadium looked pretty new and seemed more like a training facility than a baseball park in its own right. There were a few players standing around outside and three or four fellas using cameras with large lenses to take photographs. I didn’t want to miss any more of the game so we went up to the seats. There weren’t many people watching, maybe ten in total, so perhaps the Futures League isn’t much of a draw.

It was certainly quieter than a KBO game.

I had a look at the scoreboard and discovered that Samsung were leading Kia by two runs to one, in the eighth innings. Eighth? It was ten past one. Ten minutes after the scheduled start-time. Something wasn’t right.

Eighth innings action.

There were some Samsung players sat nearby and one of them asked me why we were there. Why indeed, I thought, there’s no easy answer to that one.  I asked him about the change to the start time and he told me that they had started two hours earlier than intended because they had the following day off and they wanted to get away as soon as possible. Marvellous.

Almost as many players as fans in the crowd.

Ten minutes after we had arrived it was all over with Samsung holding on to their two-one lead. As we wandered out we hopped into our third taxi of the last half hour and got the driver to take us back to the Daegu baseball stadium that we’d been at an hour earlier. So far the Futures League seems to be a lot of travelling and not very much baseball.

One Response to “Samsung Lions v Kia Tigers, Sunday 15th April 2012, 11am”

  1. jenniferteacher2point0 Says:

    “Jen, who speaks very good Korean” HAHAHAHAHA! It is at least good enough to give a cabbie an address. I think we can pretty well agree he was at least half deaf, since we had to offer him his fare five or six times before he realized why we were sticking cash in his face.

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