On the eve of the home opener in Seoul, I figured a good Throwback Thursday would be to good times at the ol’ ball-game in Busan. I’ve been an avid Blue Jays fan ever since I can remember. I have fragmented memories of sitting in my Aunt’s and Uncle’s living room watching a big game snuggled up with my parents. I also remember being down by the SkyDome (yes, it was still the SkyDome in those days and will forever be called the SkyDome in my vernacular) where I think my Mom and Dad bought a few sweatshirts celebrating the victories of 1992/1993 back to back World Series Champs. I wear one of those sweatshirts just about every Sunday night when I Skype my parents.
When I was 13, I was a few years into playing a pretty significant amount of softball/ fastpitch every spring and summer and fancied myself the kind of person who needed to understand baseball stats a bit better. On MLB.com rather than doing research, I found a contest for Mother’s Day. I had to write an essay about why I had the best Mom in the world and why she should throw out the first pitch on Mother’s Day. It was a no-brainer. I wish I still had a copy of what I had written some…15 years ago…but it probably spoke to the fact that even though my mother has a chronic illness, she’s managed to work internationally to support our family, and has managed her time (and mine) well enough to support and coach me while managing to be my chef and chauffeur to not only my softball practices and games, but also my ballet lessons (which were out in the middle of nowhere North Toronto), my choir rehearsals (which were closer, but far more frequent), and all my voice lessons and competitions. Looking back, I don’t know how she did it all. Heck – I don’t even have a license anymore. It expired 5 years ago!
TL;DR: I won the essay contest and with pictures of our travels flashing across the jumbo-tron Erin Davis of CHFI FM announced our entrance. We escorted by Carlos Delgado, no less, and Mom will always be proud that her pitch made it across home plate.
Baseball games in Korea are, quite literally, a whole new ballgame. Situated in pretty convenient areas, you’ll see flocks of people crowding onto the subway (or in our case, the bus which went directly from Hwamyeong to Sajik Stadium and Sports Complex) decked out in your traditional jerseys and hats, gloves in hand in the very likely case of a foul ball.
You’ll also see some pretty typically “Asian” accessories. I wasn’t the only one wearing a giant orange bow (for the Lotte Giants).
…buuuuut I was the only one in my crew wearing a silly hair piece.
The best part of the game (I’d say beyond the game itself, but the Lotte Giants aren’t exactly a phenomenal team) has got to be the BYO Food and Beverage situation. Yes, that’s right, you can bring in fried chicken, a Costco-sized pizza, a birthday cake, or pretty much any other food you can think up and package to bring right into the stadium. If you have the proper sizes of beer, you can walk those right in, too! I remember the feeling of sheer panic bringing in 2 tall boys and being stopped…then directed to the side so I could pour the beer into the complimentary disposable cups provided before we were allowed entry into the stadium. How do they make money? Good question! Even if you do decide to buy your beer and snacks at the various stands around the stadium, they’re actually offered at reasonable prices.
Sometimes you’ll even spot a former Blue Jay (ahem…kind of) playing as one of the few select foreigners on the opposing team. We never did hear back from Mr. Thames.
When talking about things vacationers must see and do in Korea, I always suggest a baseball game. This is a great way to see a little K-Pop (they have K-Pop dancers as cheerleaders for the baseball team) and the theatrics and displays typical of every day Korean life (the announcer/ MC wears a magicians cape, fancy boots, and prances around the stage singing songs composed specifically for each individual player). It’s a great way to experience the enthusiasm of Koreans, not only for the sport, but also for soju and maekju (beer). Fish cakes, squid on a stick, and even the occasional bondaegi (that’s right guys, cooked larva/ pupae for your eating…pleasure…) meandering through the stands. The tickets are cheap (like everything other than the jerseys) and there isn’t a bad seat in the house.
They even give you a loot bag! At the tail end of the game, fans are handed garbage bags which are turned into bubble hats until the game is over. Then, the fans clean up their garbage to leave the stadium nice and tidy. Leave it to Koreans to improve upon nearly every aspect of a day at the ballpark, save the game itself.