It had been a quiet week for sport. I’ll usually try to get along to at least one midweek football or baseball fixture, but this week I hadn’t managed it. The main reason for this being that Jen and I had stumbled across the all you can eat and drink barbecue in the beer garden at the nearby Renaissance hotel and in what probably seems a little excessive managed to spend three mid-week evenings out of five there.
It’s not that we eat or drink a great deal, although it’s possible that their wine buyer may disagree with me, but it’s nice to sit outside for three hours or so glugging back the red at your own pace and then popping back up for some more of the whole spit-roasted pig whenever you get a bit peckish. The lack of a roof means that I can smoke a couple of Cuban cigars and they even have the baseball on a big screen. It’s a rough old life.
By the time it got to Saturday though I was keen to see some sport and whilst my options were limited by having to fly to Oman that night, I’d identified a couple of possibilities. I could head out to Icheon and take in a double-header of Doosan Bears second team in a one o’clock Futures League baseball game followed by Icheon Citizen against Jungnang Chorus Mustang in the Challengers League a couple of hours later. Or, to give myself a bit of much-needed exercise, I could have walked eastwards along the north bank of the Han River for about three hours until I reached Champion’s Park which is where LG Twins play their reserve baseball fixtures. It’s also where the French team did their training during the 2002 World Cup, although I suspect that they’ll have used the football pitches rather than the baseball field.
I didn’t get up quite as early as I’d intended and so both of those options will have to stay on the ‘to-do’ list. One place that I could get to though was Goyang for a Goyang Wonders baseball game and so I caught the Line 3 subway all the way to the last stop, Daehwa. If you come out of exit four and just walk alongside the main road for ten minutes, you’ll soon spot the baseball stadium. Goyang KB’s football ground is on the other side of the road and it’s just past that.
As I approached the baseball stadium I noticed a Goyang Wonders stall selling merchandise and tickets. It’s the first time that I’ve seen that at this level. I enquired about a ticket, but was told that I didn’t need one. Perhaps the visit of Nexen isn’t a big deal.
I should probably explain a bit about Goyang Wonders. Or as much as I know anyway. They aren’t a proper KBO Futures team, but they play games most weeks against the KBO Futures teams. I’ve no idea why they aren’t in the league and I’ve even less idea why the other teams play against them. But, it’s another option for somewhere to go.
A lot of the fans were wearing shirts with the number Thirty-Eight on them. I didn’t see a player on the field with that number but discovered later that it’s in tribute to the head coach Kim Sung Kun. He’s knocking on seventy and from what I’ve read it seems that he has coached just about every team in the KBO over the years.
The stadium was pretty good. It looked as if it hadn’t been built too long ago but it had a nice layout with a sort of clubhouse behind the plate, then two small stands to either side of it that would each hold about a hundred people. A bigger stand extended along the remaining length of each side. You could probably get about four hundred people in each of those two larger stands. The only drawback was the netting. No matter where I sat I couldn’t get a view that wasn’t obscured. There wasn’t any seating in the outfield and it wasn’t possible to peer over the top of the netting from anywhere else.
I think the starting pitcher for Goyang was a fella called Sendy Rleal. There’s very little information on the Futures League available, but a bit of research from Jen on some Korean sites narrowed it down a bit. If it was Mr Rleal, then I can tell you that he’s from the Dominican Republic and he’s played Major League Baseball for the Baltimore Orioles. Quite what he thought about turning out for a team that plays unofficial matches against Korean reserve teams is anyone’s guess.
He gave up a run in the first before Goyang fought back with a two run homer from Hong Jae Yong that cleared a twenty metre high fence at the outfield and still looked to be rising as it disappeared into the park next door. Two-one to Goyang.
Sendy Rleal lasted until the fifth innings, by which time Nexen had pulled one back to make it two-each. The pace picked up a bit at this point and by the eighth Nexen had moved into an eight-four lead. It should have all been over but a bit of arsing about from the visitors, walking three batters and then conceding a four run homer, brought Goyang right back into it.
Nexen made amends in the ninth by scoring another three runs. This proved to be too much for the hosts who could only post a single run in reply and Nexen took the game eleven-nine. Overall I was impressed with the set-up at Goyang. The hundred and fifty strong crowd were enthusiastic and they’ve got a more than adequate stadium for the level that they are at. It’s not big enough to ever hold out the prospect of a move into the KBO proper, but it does justice to the idea of independent teams playing alongside the reserve sides in the second tier.