Take me out to the ball game, Korean style

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Take me out to the ball game, Korean style


Lotte Giants fans cheer on their team. By Kwon Hyeok-jae

Baseball fever is back. And for people like Shin Woong-chu who lives for the game, it couldn’t have come any sooner. His motto: Live for baseball and die for baseball.

“During the off-season [November to March], there is nothing for me to live for,” the Hanhwa fan admitted. Luckily for Shin the season got under way on April 2.

What makes people so obsessed with baseball in a country around the world from where the sport was created* The JoongAng Ilbo interviewed random baseball fans from all five baseball stadiums (Seoul, Busan, Daegu, Daejeon, Incheon) to find out what baseball means to them.

The first interviewee, 42-year-old Yang Jun-hyuk, is a retired baseball player. Now a pundit, he likens baseball to a having a new girlfriend.

“At first you don’t know anything about her. Once you get to know her, you want to see her everyday, right* Baseball is the same. At first, you don’t know the difference between a strike and a foul. But once you understand the game, you become obsessed. That is the attraction of baseball,” according to Yang.

Another fan at Lotte’s season opener, Kim Hyo-eun, said baseball was her “stress reliever.”

“After shouting and cheering with 10,000 other fans, any stress I had in me is released. When Lee Dae-ho hit a home run off of Hanhwa’s top pitcher - nicknamed “the monster” - I felt the adrenaline rushing through my whole body.”


The Doosan cheerleaders pump up the energy during a game.

Lotte’s players know her well. She is considered a good luck charm because the team usually wins when she is in attendance.

For Kang Min-kyoung, baseball is like “a club in Hongdae.” At an interview at the Jamsil Baseball Stadium, he said, “since everyone is cheering with the cheerleaders while drinking beer and having a blast, I feel like I’m at a club.”

For Kim Jung-hwan, the game of baseball is like “a Korean drama. A drama makes you go crazy because you want to find out what happens next. It makes you watch all the episodes because you can never predict what happens. Baseball has exactly the same effect.”

Kim Sung-pil compared baseball to organized religion when he said, “because every weekend you religiously go to a baseball stadium like you’re going to a church or temple.”

Japanese-Korean fan Eden Lee said baseball is a common language for different cultures. “You can cheer with random people at a baseball stadium without any language barrier.”

This is the 30th season for Korea’s professional league. The Korean Baseball Organization teams drew 5.92 million fans to their stadiums last year - a single-season record.

This year, the KBO is aiming to break its attendance record for a second straight year and has set itself the target of attracting 6.6 million fans.

Where to watch


Baseball fans enjoy a BBQ in Incheon Munhak baseball stadium’s BBQ Zone.

The top three KBO stadiums (Seoul’s Jamsil Baseball stadium, Incheon’s Munhak Baseball Stadium, and Busan’s Sajik Baseball Stadium) have a capacity of around 30,000 people.

Being able to gather 30,000 people is one thing, but these stadiums are special because of the unique facilities and innovative promotions they have to fill the seats.

These aren’t just place for baseball, they are places for the family, friends, colleagues and lovers.

* Munhak Stadium

Outside Munhak Stadium in Incheon, a variety of attractions make it family friendly. On one side, the Green Zone provides a place for fans to sit have a picnic and lie down on some green grass. The stadium’s Beach Bench is popular with fans because they can lie down and take in the game. Both the Green zone and the Beach Bench come on a first come first serve basis.

The stadium also has a Party Deck, which opened this year, for groups of four to 22 people. A reservation fee of 48,000 won is charged ($44) for four and 264,000 won for 22.

The BBQ Zone is the most popular area of the stadium with fans. From this year, people are allowed to bring in their own meat and cook it over a grill while watching the game for only 60,000 won for four people.

Behind the BBQ Zone, another new area this year has three straw-roofed “houses” that families can reserve to watch the game. Why watch the game for free in your own home when you can pay 96,000 won to watch it at “home” in the stadium*

To reserve space on the Party Deck, in the BBQ Zone or a straw-roofed houses, go to ticket.interpark.com or phone (02)1544-1555 is needed.

Another area popular with families is Wyvern’s Land, which is a play area for children.

* Jamsil Baseball Stadium


Children at the Jamsil baseball stadium play in a ball pit. By Kwon Hyeok-jae

Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul is home to both the Doosan Bears and the LG Twins. It’s known for having the youngest demographic in the league.

A popular promotion is its dance competition for couples. “You may think, who would come out and compete* But young people nowadays don’t care what other people think,” explained a Doosan Bears spokesperson. The winner gets a gift certificate.

The Doosan Bears hold an Office Worker Day event on Fridays. Rather than drinking at a bar, colleagues can go to the stadium to drink and be shown on the big screen.

Some LG twins promotions include Ladies’ Day and Kids’ Day.

For Internet addicts, there is a PC room in the stadium that is free.

* Sajik Baseball Stadium

Sajik Baseball Stadium in Busan is known as the world’s biggest noraebang, where 30,000 people sing the song “Busan Seagull” together with an orange plastic bag tied to their head.

The stadium has some unique facilities, including a baseball museum and a mini baseball field where children can experience the game of baseball.

Busan fans rave about Sajik Baseball Stadium’s food too. Whether its pork belly, kimbab, pig feet, chicken or kebabs, this stadium does it right.

By Lee Suk-hee [estyle@joongang.co.kr]

한글 관련 기사 [중앙일보]

나에게 야구는 □이다

봄이 오면 꽃만 필까요. 아니랍니다. 봄이 오면 프로야구장에 환호성도 피어납니다.

기다리고 기다리던 프로야구가 마침내 지난 2일 개막했습니다. 다시 야구장이 들썩거립니다. 겨우내 숨죽이고 있던 야구팬이 응어리를 풀어내기라도 하듯이 ‘김동주!’ ‘이대호!’를 목놓아 외칩니다.

“한 해의 시작은 1월이 아니고 프로야구가 개막하는 4월입니다. 야구가 없는 11월부터 3월까지는 사는 낙이 없습니다!”

한화 팬이라는 신웅철(28)씨의 일성입니다. 이처럼 야생야사(野生野死), 야구에 죽고 야구에 사는 ‘야구 폐인’이 전국에 허다합니다. 이들에게 야구란 무엇이고, 어떤 매력이 있을까요. 서울·부산·대구·대전·인천, 전국 5개 도시 야구장을 돌아다니며 들어봤습니다. 우선 ‘양신’ 양준혁(42)씨에게 물었습니다. 지난해 은퇴하고 올해는 해설위원으로 그라운드에 돌아왔죠. 양 위원에게 야구는 뜻밖에도 “애인 만들기”였습니다.

“처음엔 사귀기 힘들지만 성공하면 매일 보고 싶은 게 애인 아닙니까. 야구도 마찬가지죠. 처음 야구장에 가면 뭐가 스트라이크인지 볼인지도 알 수가 없어 정말 다가가기 힘들죠. 그렇지만, 규칙을 조금만 알면 매일매일 보고 싶은 것이 야구입니다.”

듣고 보니, 여태 결혼도 안 하고 야구에만 미쳐서 산 ‘양신’다운 답변이었습니다.

롯데 사직 개막전에서 만난 김효은(25)씨. 그녀는 롯데구단 직원으로부터 ‘승리의 여신’으로 불립니다. 그녀가 야구장에 나타나면 롯데가 이겼다고 하네요. 서울에 직장이 있는 그녀가 부산까지 야구를 보러 가는 이유는 무엇일까요.

“3만 명이 함께 목청껏 응원하고 나면 스트레스가 확 풀려요. 야구는 저에게 피로 해소제예요. ‘괴물(한화투수 류현진)’을 상대로 이대호 선수가 홈런을 쳤을 땐 온몸에서 엔도르핀이 돌았으니까요.”

“홍대앞 클럽”이라고 표현한 팬도 있습니다. 잠실구장에서 만난 강민경(23)씨는 “응원가에 맞춰 치어리더와 춤추고 맥주 마시며 한바탕 노니까 클럽에 온 기분”이라고 하네요. 복잡한 야구 규칙 몰라도 야구장을 찾는 여성 팬이 요즘 부쩍 늘었지요.

부산에서 만난 김정환(42)씨는 “본방 사수해야 하는 미니시리즈”라고 했습니다. “안 보면 궁금해 미칠 것 같고, 끝날 때까지 결론이 어떻게 날지 모르는 게 꼭 드라마이잖아요. 중간중간 인생의 희로애락까지 녹아있고요.” 정말 딱 맞는 표현인 것 같습니다. 야구의 묘미는 마지막까지 누가 이길지 모른다는 거잖아요. 이 밖에도 재미난 답변이 많습니다. 몇 가지 더 들어보실까요.

“야구는 종교다.”-김성필(49)씨, 주말마다 성당이나 교회를 가는 것처럼 야구장엘 가니까.

“야구는 만국 공통어다.”-재미교포 에단 리(30), 야구장에서는 말이 통하지 않아도 낯선 사람과 금세 가까워지니까.

“야구는 고추장이다.” -김유경(29)씨, 보고 또 봐도 질리지 않으니까.

다들 이상해 보이시나요? 글쎄요. 통계가 있습니다. 프로야구는 올해 30년을 맞았습니다. 지난해만 해도 600만 명 가까운 관중이 몰렸고, 이제까지 모두 1억 명 넘는 사람이 야구장을 찾았습니다. 아직도 이상해 보이세요? 1억 명 중에 당신이 없는 게 이상한 게 아니고요? 장담합니다. 야구에 한번 빠지면 ‘떠난 현빈’ 다시는 안 찾습니다. 대신 ‘동주앓이’와 ‘대호앓이’가 시작됩니다.

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