Sunday, March 29, 2015

Opening Day 2015

The 2015 KBO baseball season got underway yesterday, and I was there. In fact, I have attended Opening Day every year since I have been in Korea, so this was my seventh. I went to Mok-dong Stadium to support my team, the Nexen Heroes. The Heroes mascot is the best in the league, in my opinion, Mr. Stone Jaw, 턱돌이:

There are 10 teams in the league this year, which has sparked some changes in the rules, as well as an increase in the schedule to 144 games. You can read a pretty decent pre-season round-up at the JoongAng Daily.

One "new thing" I noticed was a concern about "safety" in the stadium, which seemed mainly to be expressed by these stickers put up all over everywhere:

However, at Mok-dong, at least, they still have the Smoking Area:

Baseball is, of course, an American invention, and food favorites at the ballpark include such traditional American fare as hot dogs and fried chicken. This is the case in Korea, too. But other favorites include dried squid, mandu (Korean filled dumplings), kimbap, and new to the stadium this year, "Ciao Chips". "From Italy!"

No visit to the ballpark is complete, at least for the adults, without a beer or two. And Koreans do enjoy themselves some beer. Within a few steps of my gate to the seats were three places to get beer:

There are two new rules this year regarding alcohol, at least theoretically. First, no bottles or cans allowed in the stadium, so the lines are substantially longer as the clerks have to pour the beer into plastic cups (a FIFA rule for ages):

Second is a rule prohibiting its sale after the seventh inning. This was certainly not the case at Mok-dong on Opening i bought a beer in the tenth inning.

Okay, fans, we have our food, we have our beer. Just one more stop before we go to our seats: we need to fill up our noisemaker things with air. There are several air pumps on the mezzanine with free air:

Time to find our seats. Well, actually, I had general admission tickets, 13,000 W (an Opening Day discount of 4,000 W) so I staked my claim with plastic bags slid over the back of the seats before I went out and took the photos above. Andy van Hekken throws the first pitch at 2:01, a swing and a miss, for the first strike of the season:

The game itself was very exciting. The Heroes, second place last year in both the regular season and in the post-seasonm fell behind the Eagles (perennial bottom-dwellers) 2 - 1 by the bottom of the third, and gave up two more runs by the sixth. But through it all, the fans kept up their high level of cheering, led by cheerleaders and cheer-dudes.

In addition to general team cheers, each batter has his own cheer or song, which the fans know off by heart. Some of them are chants, but others are tunes from pop culture sources, including this year, ABBA--"Waterloo" for, if I remember, 이택근, Ee Taek-geun. But Waterloo has three syllables, so you could use it for virtually any Korean.

Anyway, the Heroes fought their way back into the game with two in the bottom of No. 7, and the leveler in the eighth. They have always had strong offense, but quality defense was a long time coming. They still slip back into those patterns, as, for example, what would have been a nice sliding catch by the left fielder popped out of his glove. A couple innings later, SS and 3B performed a textbook Alphonse and Gaston, wherein they collided over a pop fly, the short stop knocking the ball from the third baseman's glove. Both were costly errors, though typically, neither was counted as such by the official scorer.

The game went to extra innings, and the supporters kept up their constant singing/chanting/cheering.

This was the first extra-inning game of the season, ad it went the distance, as twelve innings is the max in KBO rules. Finally, with one out in the bottom, Seo Geon-chang 서건창 soloed a walk-off homer. He is Nexen's lead-off hitter and was last year's KBO MVP, the first player to break the 200-hit barrier, with 201.

Here is my hero, 턱돌이, cheating on me with some other fans in celebrating the 5 - 4 win!

And finally, a shot of the scoreboard:

No comments: