It is a sunny spring day in April. Athletes are wearing baseball uniforms and practicing their defensive play. They are focused and determined but they are not professionals. They are students of our baseball club L.A.E(Labs.Atheletes.Elephants), a baseball club that has a 35 year history at Dongguk University. L.A.E won the university amateur league last year and has traditionally been a strong team finishing in the top eight each year. The club has also topped the league seven times since its foundation. Winning and winning streaks are part of this team’s makeup. The Post recently met with the team during a practice session and League game to learn about their passion for baseball.
Every Thursday, there is a baseball practice held regularly. The players gather in the club room. They get out their uniforms and put them on. The juniors arrive earlier to take care of the grounds, but were having trouble doing so on this occasion. The field was in bad condition because it had rained the day before. We asked if it was hard to look after the field following the rain. One of the junior said with a smile, “That’s ok. We’re good at what we do.” After a half an hour of caring for the grounds, the seniors were informed it was ready to use.
After their warm-up, all sixteen players sat around in a circle. Their manager, Lee Gye-nyoung told them that practice would be the same as last week. Because there would be a league game on Sunday they would have to work on their basic defense. If they wanted to win this game Gye-nyoung told them a good practice of catch would be all they needed. The juniors shouted “let’s go” and they started their practice. Juniors with no partners formed pairs with seniors. Several players looked to be having a good time. They practiced throwing many kinds of pitches like breaking balls and curve balls. After their warm-up they did some running. Manager, Lee Gye-nyoung said “This kind of practice is good for base running. We are not just out here running for nothing.” The players did their best to follow their manager’s commands.
Infield practice was next. The juniors put the bases down on the spots indicated by their seniors. Then, a senior player hit the ball down the third-base line. The junior catching at third base missed the routine drive down the line and the senior advised him to bend his knees more. “If you get lower, you can see the ball better and this will help you to catch them more easily.” The junior player looked dejected and a little embarrassed. Outfield practice was also done. Because the senior players were hitting the ball a long way, all of the outfield players were shouted to back up.”
After the team practice, there were individual practices. Players who were poorer at defense exercised separately. Other players practiced batting and playing catch. The manager tried to improve their swings by improving their posture. “Lessen the space between your legs and draw your arms forward as much as you can,” the manager told them. The swings of the junior players modestly improved, but the manager smiled contentedly. Individual practices continued until sunset.
A player, who was waiting for his turn to bat, was interviewed. First, we asked him why he joined the club. Kim Jae-ho, a Bio-Chemical Engineering major, said “I first started playing catch when I was in high school and since then I have been crazy about baseball. After entering university, I also heard that there was a baseball club at our university from a department senior. I decided to join the club.” Second, we asked him what the hardest thing about playing baseball was. “There is no one special hardest thing for me; but if I have to pick one thing I would say it is difficult to improve my skills. I always practice very hard, but my baseball ability does not seem to improve as quickly as I would like”, Jae-ho said with a grin. Finally, we asked him if he had a special moment from the games he has participated in so far. “I will never forget last year’s final. One of the senior players got injured while he was running to home plate. Even though he was injured, during another at bat he tried to advance to first base by bunting. I was struck by his passion for the game.” Jae-ho’s passion was also evident during our interview.
The Post attended the baseball game on Sunday. The opponent was a team from Sahmyook University. Sahmyook was the underdog in this game, a fledging team established just last year, going up against the defending champions. A mismatch, perhaps, but games still have to be played and past championships do not win ballgames.
L.A.E started the game batting first. Early on it was evident that the pitcher for Sahmyook University had little control of his pitches as he frequently would lose control. And in a matter of minutes things went from bad to worse. The bases were loaded with no outs. L.A.E clean-up hitter smashed a shot to left center driving in the first run. Before they knew it Sahmyook was pasted for seven runs in the first inning.
It was Sahmyook’s turn at bat. Up came their first three hitters. One by one they walked back to their dugout in disappointment each being retired in quick order. The trend continued up until the third inning.
At this time the senior players made way for the juniors to give them a chance to join in this beat down celebration.
With their entrance the fireworks continued.
L.A.E ran up the score to fifteen in the fourth inning, eerily similar to what had occurred in the first.
The following inning L.A.E introduced their new junior pitcher. Nerves were high. Once again, three up, three down by strike-outs no less. Not bad for a first-timer in his first inning for the club.
One of the seniors said with a laugh, “This is the first time that a freshman has gone up to the mound and has put on this kind of show. He did really well and that’s why he’s one of our highest rated prospects.” The game was called after 5 innings in accordance with the League’s mercy rule. L.A.E had crushed their opposition by a score of 23 to 2. The whole team looked extremely happy as they were getting ready to leave the field and head home. We should be proud of these players who find the time to exercise and play baseball while attending Dongguk University. Let us also not forget the other students who have little time for exercise and games because they are hard at work in class, earning their grades. The Post wishes L.A.E all the best this year as they try to win the League in 2011.
KIm Jong-ha firstname.lastname@example.org
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