Approaching Jamsil Baseball Stadium, you can hear the crowd even before you’ve left the subway steps. The fans are loud, dedicated, attentive, and excitedly cheer every strike, ball, pick-off attempt, defensive play and hit. With reasonably priced tickets and beer, cheerleaders, chant directors, and games almost everyday of the regular season (since Jamsil is home to both the Doosan Bears and LG Twins), Seoul is truly the mecca of baseball in the ROK.
Seoul boasts a third team as well: The Seoul Heroes play at Mokdong Stadium across town, and like Jamsil, you will find that the visiting team’s sections are often as full as the home side’s stands. Since many Koreans living in Seoul actually moved here after growing up in other parts of the country they maintain strong loyalties to their home teams. Because of these balanced crowds, each game takes on the competitive atmosphere of a playoff game.
All three of Seoul’s teams boast bonafide baseball stars: The Heroes’ Cliff Brumbaugh sits in third place with 27 home runs, while Doosan’s Kim Hyun-soo, the 21 year old phenom who plays left field, and Roberto Petagine, LG’s first baseman and fan favorite (see video), have each topped 100 RBI’s, making them two of the only three players in the league to do so this season. Kim has put up an MVP caliber season and sits in the top five of every offensive category. Petagine leads the KBO in slugging percentage, and his teammate Park Yong-tek, leads the batting average category with an unbelievable .374.
Fan adoration is certainly tied to these players’ statistics, but there is another type of player-appreciation you will likely encounter at baseball games in Seoul: the fawning female. During batting practice, bullpen sessions, and especially after games at the players’ exits outside the stadiums, throngs of single girls will crowd around in order to catch a close-up look at, or a few words with, their favorite players.
Although Jamsil Stadium hosts several major fast food establishments that serve hamburgers, chicken and pizza, the overwhelming volume of food consumed is decidedly less commercial. The local version of peanuts and crackerjacks – dried and barbecued squid, hard-boiled eggs, and vegetable kimbap – are cheaper and healthier alternatives to the typical fast food menu. Fans who arrive early for games can usually be found scouring the food and alcohol stalls between Exit 6 and the right field gate. Ticket collectors will allow outside food and drinks into the stadium. Soju is not sold in the stadium, but just about everything else is readily available. Other costs to expect: inflatable boomsticks w2000, tall cans of beer w3000, and seats start at w7000 at Jamsil (w8000 on weekends) and w6000 at Mokdong.
Every game is a frenetic atmosphere of loud cheers, music, dancing cheerleaders, and kiss-cams on the big screen. Though many Koreans are passionate about their team, most seem to come to Jamsil to enjoy the sights and sounds of the game rather than agonize over the stats and scoreboard. No games are ever dull, but the best games to go and see typically feature the Bears or Twins going up against out of town rivals like Gwangju’s KIA Tigers and Busan’s Lotte Giants. Tiger’s fans come out in staggering numbers and Giant’s fans are by far the loudest and most boisterous.
The regular season ended last week with the first place KIA Tigers winning the league pennant. They advance to the KBO series at the end of October and Incheon’s SK Wyverns who finished in second place wait to play the winner of the first round of playoffs between the Doosan Bears and Lotte Giants. The Bears season is not over and the frenzy at Jamsil Stadium will be unprecedented as these rival teams start their best of five showdown on September 29th.
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