Since this weekend was so adventurous, I had to break it up into a few posts keep from writing one epically long post. This installment of my awesome weekend picks up right after the Boseong Tea Fields post. So if you haven’t had a chance to read that, I encourage you to check that out first. Anyway, on with the show!
After we returned to Gwangju, Nicole and I went to my place to change and get ready for the baseball game. Nicole and I were going with Will and Kayla to see Gwangju’s Kia Tigers play against Daegu’s Samsung Lions. The Kia Tigers colors are red, so the two of us wore all the red we could, including our DMZ fanny packs that Nicole picked up on her east coast trip. Long story short, we looked pretty cool.
Nicole and I picked up some Chamchi Kimbap (tuna sushi) for the road and met Will and Kayla at the corner to hail a cab to the stadium. Split four ways, the cab worked out to a few dollars each. Having been to MLB games in the states, I foolishly expected something along the lines of an MLB game in the states. This experience was wildly different and waaay better.
First off, the stadium, Gwangju Mudeung Baseball Stadium, was tiny. It was comparable to a minor league stadium in the states and held 12,000 people. I much preferred this. It had much more of a community spirit and felt a lot less like attending a corporate franchise.
Second, tickets are dirt cheap. We bought our tickets 30 minutes before the game and they were only $9. I spent more than that on movie tickets back in the states. The seats we got were decent too. We were about halfway up the stands along the third baseline.
In the states if you go to a baseball game, expect to spend $8-10 on a plastic cup of beer and wait in a long line to get it. In Korea, they have convenience stores in the stadium. That’s right, convenience stores in the stadium. We went in and bought a six-pack of beer for the same price as we would pay outside at any other convenience store. It was fantastic.
Kidding, Korean baseball is awful, hilariously so. I love Korea, I think the Korean people are great, but they are not baseball players. Now, I’m no expert on baseball, nor do I claim to be, but I could recognize skill or lack thereof. Half the players couldn’t hit the ball out of the infield, and when they did, it was a guaranteed two bases for the batter because the outfielders weren’t used to having to catch the ball and often could not catch the ball. We say two outfielders both run for a ball that was easily catchable only to have both miss it. I expected to hate watching the game for the low-level of play, but I ended up enjoying it much more. It was refreshing to see players struggle and occasionally mess up. I feel like watching an extremely high level of sportsmanship becomes boring after a while. It’s less like watching sports and more like watching robots. The team that wins is the team that messes up least, not the team that dominates over the other one. It’s similar to watching professional bowling, where the bowler that loses is the one that misses by a single strike against his opponent’s perfect game.
The stadium was electric with energy, despite the small stadium and poor playing, the fans were just as excited, if not more so. It was nice to see baseball at its roots. The game was much simpler in so many ways.
In the states, at least in Tampa Bay, baseball seems catered towards those with ADHD. There’s music constantly, random videos and commercials on the jumbotron, contests, dancers, people giving speeches on the field. It’s like the MLB is trying to distract people from the fact that they’re watching baseball, rather than embracing the fact that they’re watching baseball.
Watching baseball in Korea was different. There was an old school jumbotron that displayed the score and one beer chugging competition about halfway through the game. Other than that there were no festivities or distractions, just people watching baseball. The crowd provided the rest of the fanfare. When the Kia Tigers scored, someone in the crowd played a drum and the fans sang songs and cheered with their inflatable sticks.
Nicole and I showed our hometown pride by rooting for the Kia Tigers, even though they lost in the end by more than 8 points. Kayla and Will were less devoted fans and switched over to Samsung Lions fans about halfway through the game. Nicole and I had planned to leave early but ended up having such a great time that we stayed for the whole game.