Pro baseball sees rising numbers of fans in standsThe only year in Korean professional baseball history when the number of spectators in ballparks passed the 5 million mark was 1995, when a total of 5,406,374 people watched games.
Haitai Tigers pitcher Sun Dong-yuhl played for the last time with an earned run average of below 1. And three LG Twins star players, Ryu Ji-hyun, Seo Yong-bin and Kim Jae-hyun, commanded a huge following.
In 1996, however, Park Chan-ho left for the United States and Sun went to play in Japan, and the number of spectators declined to 4,498,082. The figure has continued to fall yearly.
Ten years later though, pro baseball is experiencing a renaissance. The number of spectators this year hit the 1 million mark last Saturday after 137 games played, compared with 190 last year.
The number of spectators per game has also increased 41 percent to 7,649 from last year.
If the trend continues, the total spectator figure for this year is estimated to be around 3.8 million; 1999 was the last year when more than 3 million watched pro games in ballparks.
The number of daily spectators hit 100,000 for the first time on April 5 thanks to the Lotte Giants and Doosan Bears, which have large, 30,000-person capacity stadiums.
Lotte’s last three home games in Busan were sold out starting last Friday. The three top teams ―Samsung Lions, Lotte and Doosan ― are leading in the spectator gains.
by Chang Hye-soo