Take me out to the ballgame

by Liam Ring
Groove Korea (groovekorea.com)

It’s Friday evening. I have chicken. I have beer. I have a brand new phone app that allows me to order more of this if I so wish. I have an extremely comfortable chair just behind the home plate. There are cheerleaders to my left and right leading the crowd through what looks like a highly choreographed series of gestures and cheers. People are shouting encouragement … well actually it isn’t all encouragement towards the players. These are all things that I can to some extent relate to. More difficult perhaps is the keeping track of the action as SK Wyverns take on KIA Tigers in a Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) match. When most of your knowledge of a sport comes from memories of the Tom Selleck fish out of water comedy Mr Baseball, you figure there’s plenty to learn.

Although not my first time at a ballgame, I have the typical issues facing most Europeans as they contemplate the diamond. I’ve been jokingly (I think) told by a colleague to just think of it as rounders; that baseball is inherently a simple game that anyone can enjoy.  I’m then told that there won’t be many runs this inning as we are near the bottom of the SK batting order – ‘you know, like in cricket.’ Ah yes… cricket. Being Irish, I don’t know much about that sport either. I do, however, know that SK is now down three to nothing and the natives are getting restless.

Of course it’s questionable how much knowledge is actually needed to enjoy a sport. I keep hearing words like pinch hitter, designated hitter, bunt… . Wyverns will shortly screw the last one of those up with the bases loaded, leaving the fan beside me to spit out a volley of exasperated expletives towards the bench. It’s vaguely comical but the very next pitch is hammered over the fence for a two-run homer. We have gone from the ridiculous to the sublime in about ninety seconds and now the home side trail by just one run.  Some more beer arrives – this ordering app is proving useful –and I begin to think that I just might get used to this.

By the game’s end, SK have won 7 to 4, with the final inning a bit of a damp squib after the excitement that had come before. The home closer, ferried from his practice range in a little car, shuts down any KIA comeback effort with a nonchalance that most in the crowd seem to share. My colleague points out that usually closers don’t even come to the mound unless the finish is tight, and I quietly reflect that having someone with a little knowledge can make this game much more accessible. That said, I doubt I’ll remember a whole lot of the intricacies by the time I next get to a game. The atmosphere, the food, the beer, that useful little phone app… I’m likely to remember those more than the rules regarding pinch and designated hitters.Though I have decided that the comment about rounders was a joke.

Check out the SK Wyverns at the Happy Dream Stadium in Incheon. Use Incheon Subway Line One and get off at Munhak Sports Complex station.

SK Wyvern’s Website: http://eng.sksports.net/SK_Eng/SKwyverns/wrn_team_home.asp

Korea Baseball Organization:  http://eng.koreabaseball.com/

Groove Korea Magazine website

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