The batboy? Johnny Bench

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The batboy? Johnny Bench

Baseball fans, get ready to be happy. Everybody else, get ready to wear your Be the Reds T-shirts again.
With the U.S. Defense Department talking about shutting down the Yongsan army base within months instead of years, people are starting to wonder what the city will do with all that space. Well, we here at Itaewon Wanderings just got the inside scoop ― a plan is afoot to build a world-class baseball stadium on Yongsan’s South Post, about where the Collier Fieldhouse is, for a new professional team.
As my colleague Brian Lee has said numerous times in his sports column, Korean pro baseball needs more teams and better facilities to attract bigger crowds and make the clubs profitable. Apparently, people in the league offices have been listening, and have decided that Seoul could accommodate a third team, in addition to the Doosan Bears and the LG Twins, and that Yongsan was the perfect place to build a modern stadium.
We couldn’t agree more.
We first heard about the plan from George Anderson, the guy who runs Sparky’s, a bar in Itaewon a few doors down from King’s Club. George is a big baseball nut, knows somebody who works for the league, and arranged an interview with him for us.
The league official, who asked that his name not be used in this article, graciously agreed to meet us and talk about the project. He said that an up-and-coming business group, Dongnebuk Corp., would be the sponsor of the new team, and that the club would be called the Reds, in the spirit of the national soccer team’s success in last year’s World Cup.
The Dongnebuk Reds. Sounded good to us. We were delighted with the news, but what the official told us next knocked our socks off.
The company wants the team to have an international image, so in its first season - maybe 2006, depending on when U.S. troops are shifted off the base and how soon construction on the new stadium can begin ― it wants to have foreigners on its coaching staff, in addition to a Korean manager. The official said that the Dongnebuk people would shell out tons of cash to try to get former stars of the Major League Baseball Cincinnati Reds, such as Pete Rose, Tony Perez and Joe Morgan, to help with the club.
More specifically, Dongnebuk wants to have a Korean manager and an all-Red coaching staff in its inaugural year. It wants to have as its skipper “Say Hey” Byun Gang-sui, a former home run king of Korean ball. Rose would then be third base coach, Perez the first base coach and Morgan the second base coach.
The official told us that the proposed Yongsan stadium is designed after Toronto’s SkyDome, with a retractable roof and seating for about 55,000 fans. Like the one in Toronto, the stadium would be a big entertainment complex, complete with restaurants and hotels with views of the action (on the field).
Still, the project is far from a done deal. In fact, the official said it would be kept under wraps for about a year. So don’t expect any more information about the Dongnebuk Reds soon.
At least not until next April 1.

by Mike Ferrin
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