Baseball is a sport a large portion of the world enjoys. It is easy to play pretty much everywhere and it has a great following. It should come as no surprise that watching baseball in Asia is very different than watching it in America. Going to LG Twins, or Doosan Bears games at Jamsil stadium in Seoul was definitely one of my favorite things to do in Korea. The electric atmosphere and small differences in stadium rules align to make it a great experience.
Baseball is exciting in Korea. In Korea, the game is a big deal and the teams have legions of fans. It is one of, if not the most, popular sport in the country. However, since Korea is such a small country, it can only support a few teams. To compare, the MLB has 32 teams, while the KBO (Korean Baseball Organization) has only 10.The most recent team, the NC Dinos, was created in 2011. One noticeable difference in the naming of the teams is how the Korean team names are prefaced by a company’s name, for example the KIA Tigers, LG Twins, or the Doosan Bears. The teams that I saw the most were the Bears, and Twins, both of which are based out of Jamsil stadium in Seoul. The Bears were at the time a powerhouse, but recently lost to the Tigers in the Championship this past year.
Getting to the Jamsil stadium is easy enough by subway. Walking out of the exit under the shadow of the stadium you’ll be greeted by a large variety of people trying to sell you any kind of food or beverage they can. Here fried chicken dominates, so there will be a lot of that pushed your way. Along the base of the stadium are your run of the mill fast food restaurants like KFC and a few convenience stores.
There is no drawback to getting anything on the outside as you can take anything you get in. In fact, at least in Jamsil, the only thing you’ll find concessions-wise inside the stadium would be a lonely GS25 hanging out by the exit. Even better is at any point of the game, as long as you have a ticket, you can go out, buy something, and come back in. A few caveats do exist though, one being no glass bottles—so you better be buying the plastic soju bottles—and you are not allowed back in the stadium with booze too late into the game. So stock up!
By way of finding where to sit, it’s pretty much fair game anywhere.There are generally three sections that matter, one is the home side “cheering” section, the outfield, and the opposing side. The cheering section makes up pretty much half of the stadium and is where the party is at. The outfield is generally open but there have been those times where the place is packed and standing room only is all you have available.
The electric feeling is alive and well at these games and is what makes it all worth it. There are endless chants, cheers, and songs. Every player has their own theme song and the whole stadium chants along every time they are at bat. There are rare moments when the stadium is actually quiet. Anything (positive) that happens is met with a large roar and cheering, songs, and just jubilation. Even out on the outskirts of the stadium people are cheering and being active watchers. The closer you get to the home seating behind the plate the more the activity amps up. They have cheerleaders, the occasional drum beating, and high energy people with mics edging the crowd on. That section is a lot more high energy and people in those sections are just having a good time. The chants echo throughout the stadium. Every pitch there is something being chanted with the boom sticks booming and the occasional flag waving. The atmosphere at these games, especially on a lazy Saturday night, is either the perfect farewell to a great Saturday or the opening songs of a great night out depending on how you play it.
I was also lucky enough to go to one game in Japan at the Tokyo dome. Compared to Jamsil, the area outside was quiet, in fact it’d be possible to not know a game was going on. The Tokyo dome is huge, it was a massive building filled with people. The cheering and vibe was similar to Korea but possibly even just more everything. It was a crazy place. They even sold food inside the stadium which was a nice change of pace. The most memorable thing though were the beer girls who were buzzing all over the stadium dressed in skirts with kegs strapped to their backs. You could see them all over the place, especially in the lower rows just going every which way up and down the aisles. It was like watching bees at work, or at least a very busy street intersection.
Baseball in Korea and Japan is an exciting affair. While going to a baseball game with your friends can be relaxing as you just talk and occasionally see some action worthy of paying attention to, baseball in these countries is more humming with energy and life similar to what you would find at a playoff game.