Building the infrastructure of professional baseballWhat South Korea needs most to improve and develop professional baseball is more baseball parks and a larger audience. Compared to the Korean economic rank and living standards, major league baseball fields and infrastructure are too poor. Hanwha Eagles uses a local stadium in Daejon that was built in 1964. The Jamsil Baseball stadium, home to Seoul-based LG Twins and Doosan Bears, was built for the 1983 World Baseball Championship. Visiting teams have to change in the corridor because it does not have an extra locker room.
The poor standards are not the only problem. Baseball teams cannot use the field with liberty. Local governments that own the fields do not allow long-term contracts and the teams therefore cannot plan or provide organized programs for their local fans. The owners only allow the use of the fields and control advertising rights in the stadium.
Baseball field infrastructure remains poor because of disinterest from the social elites. Parks and stadiums genuinely for a specific sport are rare. They are mostly multipurpose stadiums built to host international competitions. The city of Changwon promised to build a stadium to host the NC Dinos, a new professional team founded in 2011, but is yet to follow up on its word. The city of Seoul decided to construct a domed baseball park in western Seoul without consent from the Seoul teams and is pressuring the LG Twins and Doosan Bears to change their home field.
Baseball cannot sustain its status as favorite pastime of Koreans without extension of the fan base. A professional league team would have to base itself in major cities because it has to play six times a week. Citizens of smaller cities would have to settle for watching the games on TV because they have no chance of seeing teams play in their part of the community. Smaller city citizens should also be entitled to enjoy watching the game in the field. I suggest the local second league - Futures League - be run as the American minor league. Instead of using the second league as a training footing for aspiring players, it must be utilized to increase fans and the infrastructure of professional baseball.
* Professor of economics at Sogang University and author of “Korean Baseball Economics”
by Lee Young-hoon