In early KBO days, Bears pioneered kids program

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In early KBO days, Bears pioneered kids program

These days, clubs in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) have different marketing plans that target different age groups. But older fans claim that the techniques used in the league’s early days were more effective - and more fun.

When the KBO was born in 1982, the OB Bears (now the Doosan Bears) quickly made a name for themselves as the team to beat when it came to marketing. The Bears were the first club in the league to have a membership program for kids.

The idea of marketing to children came from Park Yong-min, the club’s first general manager, but he says he can’t take all the credit.

“Before I came to the Bears, I hadn’t even worn a baseball glove” Park said in an interview with Ilgan Sports, an affiliate of the Korea JoongAng Daily, last week. “So that’s why I tried to meet many people who know baseball.

Park said he visited Japan and the United States at least once a month to learn about baseball management. The 81-year-old said that in Japan, his saviors were former Seibu Lions manager Mori Masaaki and management director Rikuo Nemoto.

Park, who later became the president of the Bears, said that Nemoto was the one who suggested making a membership program for kids, which the Seibu Lions were also running at the time.

“He told me, ‘Kids are the best. One child can bring an entire family to the baseball stadium,’” Park said.

The program was a big hit. According to Park, it drew 300,000 young fans its first year. The membership came with a cap, uniform and other merchandise, which made kids in the Bears program the envy of all their friends.

“One day, a superintendent of the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education brought me to his office and said, ‘Stop running the membership program because it’s dividing kids in school,’” Park said. “So I said back to him politely, ‘We also have to make a living.’”

Park, who also worked as an adviser for Doosan Group, now lives in Chuncheon, Gangwon, about 85 kilometers (53 miles) east of Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul, the home of the Bears.

“When I visit the Jamsil Baseball Stadium by bus, I sometimes see young people with the Bears cap,” he said. “When I hear them saying, ‘We’ve been Bears fans since we were kids,’ I feel proud and happy.”

BY CHOI MIN-KYOO [joo.kyungdon@joongang.co.kr]

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