Do you remember the 2009 WBC (World Baseball Classic) and the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games? The South Korean National Baseball team received a gold medal at the Beijing Olympics, and came out with a second place finish in the 2009 WBC. The previous results gave an unforgettable impression for all Korean people, it also led to a baseball boom in Korea. According to the KBO (Korea Baseball Organization), the crowds at baseball stadiums reached to more than 50 million people. Finally, the 2010 baseball season is beginning on March 27th, and with spring coming the weather has never been better. So why don’t you visit the baseball stadium with your friends, family or significant others?
Baseball in Korea is clearly one of the most popular sports. Since professional baseball began in this country eight pro baseball teams have competed with each other, and almost every year this sport has recorded the highest number of attendees in Korea. Why is baseball so popular in Korea? First of all, the game of baseball in itself is an attraction. Yogi Berra, one of the most outstanding catchers in Major League Baseball history said that "It ain’t over ‘till it’s over". This saying expressed the distinctive feature of baseball very well. Basically, baseball is really different from other sports such as football, basketball and most other ball sports. In general, most ball sports set a play time, however baseball doesn't have set a time. Because of this, baseball fans can focus on the strategy and players and enjoy the game until the end of the final inning.
Another reason for the popularity of baseball in Korea is the local atmosphere of the ballpark. Many baseball fans say that the ballpark has a unique atmosphere when compared to America and Japan. Sajik Baseball Stadium which is located in Busan, represents this very well. In 2008, Jerry Royster, the manger of the Lotte Giants team, said that he had never seen and felt an atmosphere like he did in Sajik Stadium even in the major leagues. He added that he was really amazed when the fans of his team sang together in unison. Another nickname for Sajik Stadium is the largest karaoke on earth. The singing in unison for their favorite team or player is a feature unique to Korea Baseball fans and is distinctive when compared with fans from other countries. A final example of a healthy fan culture in Korea is the fans of the Lotte Giants who wear garbage bags on their heads to support the voluntary removing of garbage from the ball parks themselves.
In addition to a great fan base, cheerleading is another Korean specialty. In the United States and Japan there is cheerleading, however, unlike those countries, in Korea during every inning the cheerleaders encourage the crowd to cheer and get them started with chants and songs. This cheerleading and singing also helps prevent boredom in between innings and promotes fan support during longer games.
However, many people still have prejudices about baseball. Some people think baseball is a very hard sport to understand because of the complicated rules. Also, it can be difficult to concentrate on when the cheering is too loud or the length of the game is too long.
In the games defense, baseball games don't feel long if you are watching live at the stadium. Also, cheerleading and a variety of events like kiss time, gift events, etc... help to keep fans interested. KBO also announced that they have made an effort to finish the games within 3 hours with the exception of the post season where the twelve second rules are introduced.
The Baseball rules also do not prove so difficult to understand and it should not be a barrier to watch the game. One Donggukian said that "Actually, I don’t understand baseball rules enough, and whenever I go to stadium, I find that many ladies also don’t know. But there are no problems, I just enjoy it"
Many teams have introduced a variety of ways for people to concentrate on the game. For example Jamsil Stadium has seats behind the catcher for general fans, and Sajik stadium made the ‘Extreme Zone’ next to the ground for enjoying the game in more detail. The SK Wyverns team even made a Couple Zone and Barbecue zone for families fan, and also set up a cosmetic zone for ladies. Especially, Green Zone in SK stadium is expected to provide new excitement to fans who want to enjoy the game on the grass. A Donggukian said that “In my case, I used to seat Barbecue zone with my family, except during cold weather in the autumn, everything is very good. It was very exciting and a fun experience for my family.” The Doosan Bears have made “Pink-day” in which there are a variety of events for ladies and even the athletes wear pink uniforms. These are just of the few incentives for fans of the sport, and teams are always adding to the list of activities.
The weather will continue to improve, and should be wonderful in April and May. If you feel bored with amusement parks and movie theaters, why don’t you go to a ballpark with your family, friends or your significant others? I am sure that with a little bit of drinking and your friends under the blue sky you won't be able to resist the attraction of baseball.
Kim Ji-heon firstname.lastname@example.org
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