Lotte Giants v Police, Saturday 28th April 2012, 1pm

This was another one of those baseball games in the Futures League and it featured Lotte Giants against the Police. Whilst it might seem a little odd to travel all the way to the other end of the country to watch what is essentially a reserve fixture, I was going to be in Gimhae anyway for an FA Cup second round football match later that day between two third division teams. So that’s ok then.

It was quite a journey. I caught the KTX from Seoul to Busan at half past eight in the morning, getting into Busan just after eleven. I then took the subway, changing at Seomyeon and Sasang, before ending up on the Busan Gimhae Light Rail Transit and travelling the twenty one stops and twenty four kilometres from one end of the monorail to the other.

At that point I was still a fair distance away from the stadium, but fortunately the taxi driver knew his baseball and my pronounciation of “Sangdong Yagu Jang” was close enough for him to understand where I wanted to go.

Sangdong is in the middle of nowhere, or rather it’s an area filled with mountains, timber merchants and judging by the smell, the odd pig farm. Twenty minutes and thirteen thousand won later the taxi dropped me off at Lotte Giants training ground. It looked as if they have an indoor facility the size of an aircraft hanger, plus the outdoor pitch that the game was taking place on.

Sangdong Stadium

The stadium was a bit of a disappointment. I’d been hoping that my visits to the Futures League would take me to run-down stadiums that had been left behind when the teams had moved on to somewhere bigger and newer. Or maybe even very well-kept smaller stadiums in nearby towns. What I got at Sangdong was similar to what I’d experienced at Daegu a couple of weeks before, a out-of-town practice facility with a small seating area. Perfectly fit for purpose, but just not what I was hoping for.

Giants v Police.

Sangdong was actually worse than Daegu’s Gyeongsan training base. At least the latter had seats that followed the shape of the pitch, albeit not too many. Sangdong had a sort of bus shelter high up behind the plate with four or five rows of seating. You could probably get about a hundred people or so into it. Initially I stood to one side and watched the game from there, before spotting an empty seat towards the back.

The bus shelter stand.

The crowd was typical of a reserve team fixture with a mixture of Lotte obsessives, WAGs and would-be WAGs, a dad or two keeping bored kids occupied and the odd fella who had travelled from three hundred miles away and who really should know better.

Despite being ten minutes or so late I hadn’t missed much. The Police scored five runs in the first innings, before being pegged back by three Lotte runs in the third. Four more runs in the seventh for the visitors made the game safe though and it finished up at 9-3 to the Police.

View from next to the Lotte dugout.

There seems to be less time taken between pitches and innings at this level and the whole thing was over in just over two and a half hours

Lotte Giants with the Police in the background.

My friend Alan had very kindly offered to pick me up after the game and I waited for him amongst the autograph hunters by the stadium entrance. One of the Police players was very popular and when I looked him up afterwards I discovered that it was Lotte Giants pitcher Jang Won Jun who is temporarily playing for the Police team whilst doing his national service. It turns out that I’d watched him start for Lotte against Doosan Bears at Jamsil last year.

Jang Won Jun

Once the team buses had left most of the remaining fans followed suit. A few diehards were still there though half an hour or so after the game had finished. One produced a brush to groom the security man’s guard dog whilst another had brought a cake for Lotte coach Kong Pill Sung. It wasn’t even his birthday. He very politely came outside though and posed for photos with them. A wise move really, you don’t want to piss off people who are hanging around a building entrance waiting for you. Just ask John Lennon about that one. I went back upstairs to watch a bit of batting practice.

Batting practice with the mountains in the background.

Overall it was an interesting afternoon, I got to see another bit of the country that I probably wouldn’t have visited otherwise and I picked up a few more pointers as to how baseball works outside of the KBO games. There might be fewer fans at the lower-level, but you get more dog grooming and cake.

One Response to “Lotte Giants v Police, Saturday 28th April 2012, 1pm”

  1. Says:

    How did Stewart Copeland do?

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