Tag Archives: Minnesota Twins

Koreans Love Baseball Too

13 Apr

I’ve been anticipating the start of the Korean baseball season pretty much since the end of last season when, due to still being a newbie to Korea, I knew little about it and was likewise unable to secure any tickets to a game here in Busan. It’s a shame because the Busan squad, Lotte Giants, happens to be one of the better squads in league.

At first glance Korean baseball seems somewhat of a joke. The Korean Baseball Organization, the equivalence to the MLB in the states, has only eight teams and several of them adopt their names from the majors (Lotte Giants, Kia Tigers, LG Twins). I also heard that the caliber of play is not comparable to that of the MLB (not that I expected it would be) and that each team is only allowed to have two foreigner players on their roster. Unfortunately the the salary cap for them is so low, teams are rarely able to lure in quality players from abroad.

Still, Koreans take their baseball very seriously. Walk into to any corner store, bar, or galbi joint on game night and there will probably be several televisions tuned into the game. A single mention of the Lotte Giants in my classroom sends the students into a frenzy complete with reenactments of recent home runs and the spouting off of scores and players’ names.  As I’m discussing how to get home opener tickets with other Busan waygooks, a friend of mine tells me he’s been told that many people sleep outside the night before games just to be first in line to purchase tickets after the online seats sells out. I don’t know if this is true or not but if it is, thats the type of fandom I can respect and ultimately want to be a part of (some of you may remember my soju infused Minnesota Twins rant from last year).

Despite the possible odds, I decide to make a go at getting some tickets to the home opener for myself and Kicker Jean. She’s normally a Samsung Lions supporter, but for today at least, she’s sworn allegiance to the Giants.

The Plan is to have a friend who lives by the stadium arrive early and hop in line to secure tickets for himself as well as others who are planning to show up later. I arrive to find him about 15 people from the ticket booth. It looks certain that we’ll be able to get tickets. Right as join him in line, the entire crowd turns around an begins walking away from the ticket booth. We’re less that 20 ft from the counter and the tickets sell out.

Luckily I spot an ajossi ticket scalper nearby. We are absolutely screwed on the price (having to pay double for an otherwise 7,500  Won general admission ticket) but I don’t care. It’s the home opener and the price is still comparable to what I might pay back home for Twins tickets. Unfortunately, my friend who arrived early to stand in line decides not to grab a ticket from the scalper and heads home. I feel bad because he showed earlier than myself and Kicker Jean, yet we were the ones who were getting to see the game. I phone him up and tell him we’ll save him a seat if he wants to try to find a scalper who will sell him a single ticket, but he’s already made it to the subway. There’s nothing else to do but head into the stadium.

Possible the best part about going to a Korean baseball game is that you can bring whatever food and drink you want into the stadium with you. Korean fans seem to take full advantage of this. I see people carrying in whole pizzas, cases of beer, instant noodles, soju, makgoli, kimbap–even fried chicken. Instantly, I fall in love. If you opt to buy your grub at the stadium the possibilities are countless. Instead of  the peanuts and cracker jacks you’d find at an MLB stadium, one can get  dried squid and silkworms. Instead of hot dogs and potato chips, you can enjoy samgyupsal and soon-dae –all of which can be bought either in the stands or at booths around the stadium.

Back in the states, I’m surprised they don’t hand out lube when you purchase a baseball ticket because you definitely get fucked when it comes to game time concessions. $7 bucks for a beer, $5 bucks a hot dog and damn near $10 for a hamburger and fries, and what’s worse, no fried chicken.

After buying a couple jerseys and more food and beer than is probably needed to enjoy nine innings, we take our seats to see the Giants take on the Hanwa Eagles. Before long we’re chanting along with the crowd and high-fiving everyone in the vicinity. I don’t know any of the chants so I simply match the inflections of my voice to that of the crowd. Similar to how people often mumble over the unknown words of a favorite song. From what I can tell, no one notices that I have no idea what the hell I’m saying and the college kids sitting in the same row seem impressed at my participation, so I do my best to keep up with the crowd  Later in the game we end up doing a few cheers together swaying back and forth; arm in arm.

Besides it being my first baseball game in Korea, it would also be the first time I’ve ever witnessed out-of-the-park home run.

The culprit?

Fatty Lotte Giants power slugger Lee Dae-Ho. This man is a beast. Last year he dominated the league in every offensive category except for one: steals. Fatty can hit, but fatty can’t run. Coincidentally, after Lee knocked one out of the park, Kicker Jean points out that I’m actually wearing his jersey (when I bought it, I just picked the biggest size and went with it).  I fight the urge to pretend like I knew who he was the whole time.

The most bizarre momemt in the game comes when, during the seventh or eighth inning every fan in the stadium puts a blown-up orange platic bag on their head. I’ve heard of this a few times, but no one has been able to adequately explain to me what it symbolizes.

My guess is that it’s a method used to rally the team toward a victory when they are losing, and to uphold the victory when they’re winning. Whatever the case, we have a hard time getting our bags inflated and attatched to our heads, but eventually are successful after the people sitting next to us helps us out. My ears are too small to keep the handles around them so I end up deflating it and wrapping it around my head like a bandana.

Many will say that it was sound pitching and home runs that lead the Lotte Giants to a victory that day, bit I like to think that it was the work of our orange rally bags that made it all possible.

I won’t be able to enjoy a Minnesota Twins game for long while yet, but for now I’m content with watching the Giants. At the very least, it will give me some material to chew up class during dull lessons at work.

Ciao,

Kimchi Dreadlocks

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Soju and Home Pride Don’t Mix

22 Aug

Usually when I embark on a new adventure or take an extended trip to a new country, I try to wait a while before I go about making an ass of myself.  Most of the time I can keep a lid on the craziness until I can decipher what’s appropriate and what could potentially get me arrested. Unfortunately my dear readers, this has not quite been the case for me in Korea, and I have Soju to thank for that.

For those of us who don’t know, soju–often referred to as “toad juice” by good old Mr. Wonderful–is a popular type of booze in Korea similar to cheap watered down vodka. The only difference is, the shit is mucho strong. Now in all honesty I should have known better. In my research before coming to Korea I read plenty of blogs that outlined in great detail the horrors of a night spent drinking soju. I know how it can make even the most experienced drinker beg for mercy from the killer hangover it causes. How it can make you toss your cookies all over the street, pick a fight with a complete stranger, then pass out in an apartment elevator or some other random location. I knew all this, and still proceeded to soju it up all night with total disregard for its power. Here’s the story.

With the medical exam and drug tests out of the way, all the EPIK trainees (myself included) were feeling the need to cut loose a bit and go out for night of drinking and socializing. Up until this point none of us knew each other very well and it seemed only right that we get better aquatinted  while knocking back a few adult beverages. Plans were made and slowly we left the dorms in hordes of 10 or 15, heading for the tiny strip of bars and restaurants down the street from campus.

Things started out great. We found a place called Hop Chicken (or something of that sort) that had 10,000 won (roughly $10) mammoth size pitchers of beer, pizza, and all the fried chicken you could handle.  The scene was beautiful. You had Brits, Aussies, Americans, Canadians, New Zealanders, Irish and Scotsmen all drinking merrily under one roof, at least until the soju got flowing. What started out with one shot turned into several bottles and at no point did I hold back on the beer (actually there were times that I simply combined the two to make–you guessed it–soju bombs. I hadn’t realized how drunk I was when I walked up on a table of a few brits and a couple of Americans. One of the Americans was wearing a Chicago Cubs baseball cap on. That’s when all hell broke loose.

From what I can remember, it didn’t take much–if any–provocation before I was pounding on my chest and screaming at the top of my lungs about how the Minnesota Twins are the best fucking team in all of baseball. Reports from those present fill in the blanks: I wasn’t being mean or aggressive, just overly proud and obnoxious. Apparently I would scream about the Twins, sit down for a bit then stand up and start the whole thing over again. One of the fellows was so fed up that he told me to shut my fucking mouth, to which I responded, “but I’m talking bout the Twins man!” Even after a girl I met earlier asked me to shut up, I kept going.

The next morning I barely remembered a thing, my t-shirt and one of my socks (yes, only one) was soaking wet–still don’t know why–and I had the worst hangover I’d ever felt in my life. It felt like a group of midgets was practicing Riverdance on top of my skull.  I asked my roommate what happened, but all he knew is that when he got back to the room I was passed out on my bed. In fact, I woke up to him tapping on my chest telling me I had 20 min. to make it to the first training lecture of the day. Great.

As I was walking/running through the halls on the way to class, I couldn’t help but notice the weird looks I kept getting from people. I instantly knew I had done some dumb shit. After the first lecture, one of the guys stopped me in the hallway and asked if I was less rage-filled than the night before. Right away I began apologizing. He told me that had it not been for one of the girls explaining to him hat I was actually a pretty mellow person, he would’ve hated me for life. A bit harsh if you ask me, but then again I don’t remember much of what happened. It could’ve really been THAT bad. Really, I was lucky they didn’t decide to kick the crap out of me that night.

For the rest of the day I made it my mission to find everyone who was at the table, or even in the vicinity of the table, so that I could humbly apologize. It wasn’t that hard. All day long people kept shouting “MINNESOTA!” at me. I knew instantly that they were one of my victims. On the bright side, a few people thought it was jovial, and I did get a good nickname out of the deal. One that I will never be able to live down.

That night, we went out again and I apologized once more to the fellas I offended, and bought a pitcher of beer for the table to seal the deal. I think that was the icing on the cake. I would like to say I stayed away from soju that night, but I put down a few shots then stuck to beer and stayed off the general topic of sports.

So there you have it: in just a few days in Korea, I made friends, made an ass of myself and all I got was the nickname of “Minnesota.” Home pride is a bitch.

Ciao,

Kimchi Dreadlocks

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