You may have noticed after reading my critically acclaimed and wildly popular Daejeon Citizen blog that I am a passionate sports fan. While soccer is my first and most intense sporting love, I am also known to dabble in other sports, including baseball.
Typically, I am not exactly a huge baseball fan, because personally I think the game is too slow and boring. But, ironically South Korea has resurrected my love for America’s pastime. South Korean baseball games are certainly a unique experience, and something that everyone should see at some point during their time in this country, whether you are a sports fan or not.
The local team in Daejeon is the Hanhwa Eagles, who much like the Daejeon Citizen, also undoubtedly contribute to ulcer and high blood pressure problems in the city with their frustratingly mediocre play. But, their futility on the field by no means detracts from the overall experience. And I must say, that the experience is infinitely more fun than any American baseball game I have ever attended.
With most large sporting events around the world, where there are massive crowds there will inevitably be people trying to sell them things. At Hanbat Stadium, this certainly was the case, with dozens of food carts and stands set up around the entrances. Expect to be swarmed by a horde of Korean women all frantically waving their fried chicken lunch boxes in your faces, imploring you to buy them like it was the last food on earth. (Though I did not buy anything, I will admit the mouth-watering aroma of sweet and sour chicken certainly had me itching to make a purchase)
Now probably the best part of Korean baseball games is that in terms of food and drink, you can bring anything you want into the games with you. I saw many Korean fathers casually walking into the stadium with a baby in one hand and a 6 pack of beer or a cooler full of food in the other. Even if you choose to buy food inside the stadium, the prices are quite reasonable. Beers are either 2 dollars for a can or 12 dollars for a six-pack (don’t worry I split the six-pack I am not (that much of) an alcoholic), whereas at Fenway Park in Boston you essentially have to sell your soul just for a beer and a Fenway Frank. Security is incredibly relaxed, which contrasts greatly with the security checks at American baseball games, which border on full cavity searches and often leave me feeling violated on many levels.
Predictably, the Eagles lost, but even down 7-1 in the last inning, the atmosphere was still electric. Throughout the entire game, people are chanting and cheering and banging inflatable sticks, basically with the end goal of trying to leave each other deaf by the end of the 9th inning. Every time an Eagles player hit a ball into play, the crowd roared and gasped as if they had never seen a ball fly through the air before. After every play, Japanese anime style cartoons flash on the screen, and the relief pitchers are driven onto the field to the pitcher’s mound in a Mercedes (might not have been a Mercedes, but honestly the car model isn’t important).
My only real complaint, at least in the infield seats, is the stunning lack of leg-room. Apparently these seats were designed for Hobbits, because for a 6-foot man like myself, the seats were incredibly uncomfortable. But even with my legs crushed up against the seat in front of me, I still managed to have an absolute blast. Koreans certainly know how to have a good time at a baseball game, and I highly recommend getting in on the action yourself.
Patrick Sheridan grew up in the quiet suburbs outside of Boston but always knew he wanted to explore the world. Studying abroad in Denmark while attending Elon University did not satisfy this desire, so after graduating in 2012 he decided to join Chungdahm Learning and teach English in South Korea. He loves wandering through the various neighborhoods of his city Daejeon, sampling random back-alley restaurants and attempting to communicate with the locals in his horribly broken Korean. He embraces everything Korean and looks forward to seeing everything South Korea has to offer.