Here in Korea, what seems to unite the sporting population and allow for extra long lunch breaks is baseball. It hasn't always been this way, as Beckham-mania and soccer took root back in 2002 filling the stadiums as the country hosted and surprised in the World Cup and then the subsequent start-up of the K-League - which now plays in stadiums two-thirds empty.
These empty stadiums are a direct result of the restoration of baseball as the ruling sport. Baseball has a long tradition here, but it is the recent success on the international stage - twice runners up in the World Baseball Classic, Gold Medallists at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and epic contests against rival Japan - that has made it the spectacle it is now - mascots, dancers, a cheerleader, and tons of songs - and sent soccer back to the sidelines of the national sporting consciousness.
But I will attempt to keep this brief, if only for the fact that after weeks of careful planning, I only managed to take in two innings of action!
But unfortunately for you the reader, this was not because I was drunk or asked to leave, but because in the wisdom of the higher ups in the Korea Baseball Organization, they moved up the start time of the game to avoid rain. Not a bad idea, and from the 30,000 or so in attendance, all indications are many people knew about this late change, but as I am not an avid reader of the Korean dailies, and don't listen to the Korean radio, I was in the dark - this is the second time I've ventured to this end of town in search of sports, the first being for a soccer game, only to have the wrong information...ahh, the joys of travel!?!
Fortunately we had a friend join us, who was equally in the dark, but had two of his students inside the park who came out to find and rush us into our seats in time for the bottom of the seventh inning, just in time to see my new main man, #10, smash a frozen-rope two-run homerun, which turned out to be the game winner! He will forever be #10 to me, a Korean homerun legend as I've been told, as I cannot pronounce his name, even if I could remember it, but he is my main man nonetheless, and I've got his jersey to prove it.
That's him entering at the bottom left...solid homerun trot!So despite missing seven and half innings we saw the most important hit of the game, downed a few beers, found a new sporting hero to cheer for, but even more important than that, because of my hero's homerun, got to witness 30,000 screaming fans chant and sing in unison, which is my favourite part of sport and is always equally exciting no matter what country it takes place in. And then to top it off, we got to participate in the time honoured Korean sporting event tradition of putting plastic bags on our heads! YES!!
Sports! Gotta love'em!