Saturday, April 26, 2008

Best Game EVER!

I'm sure it won't come as news to many a reader of this blog that my favourite baseball team is no longer the Toronto Blue Jays. I still like them but I like the Kia Tigers of the Korean Baseball Organization, (KBO), much better. Even though they both SUCK!!!

I guess maybe that's why I like them. When your team sucks, it makes a win so much more valuable and you feel like you're almost privileged to have witnessed it. Case in point, last game I watched at the home of the Kia Tigers, Moodeung Stadium. Most of the time I can't make it to Kia games because they play in Gwangju, an hour and 20 minutes from Mokpo where I live. Plus I usually teach when they're playing or can't catch a bus home after the games. But this week was exam week and since I had given all my exams by Tuesday afternoon, I thought I'd make the trip. I brought some of the exams along to mark but that just didn't happen...

Kia finished dead last in the 8-team KBO last year. They have a stranglehold on dead last early on in the season this year too so far. As I write this they are 7 and 17. Pretty pathetic. But they have what I think will be a really great group of players. Just watch. Later in the season I'll be writing about how good they are instead of how crappy they are. At least that SHOULD be the case. I think they are one good slugger/average hitter away from contention in the league this year. And HEY, THAT'S ME!!!! They should take a chance on me, but I doubt they will. So in the mean time I have talked to the Gwangju News about writing a column about the Kia Tigers and they have agreed. So I am now a legitimate member of the press here in Korea. Cool eh? I think I'll go out and buy myself one of those David Letterman mikes and an old 1950's "Press" hat.

I've already written a sort of program in English for all the people who have no idea who they are watching. And that includes most foreigners who go to the games. It's just a run-down of the principals. I don't include all the players but there are some that could go from unknowns to household names this year. My best example of a guy who I think is a shoe-in for THIS category is #3 Kim Sun Bin. He's the shortest guy in the league from what I understand. About 5'6 I guess. And because height is as prized here as size in the NHL, sometimes perfectly good, short players are bound to be overlooked unless they are something special. I think, from early indications, this guy IS something special. In the brief time I've watched him he's made some scintillating plays at second and hit a few times under pressure. I'll keep you up to date on what happens to him.

As for the rest of the club, they are running into a huge pile of bad luck so far. That's not the only cause of losses but in a good number of cases it IS. I think Carma will turn around sooner or later and they'll start winning some games they don't deserve to win. They've lost a few that they should have won so far but none the other way around. And you have to understand that this is the KBO, not the major leagues. Things happen that would never happen in the majors. Like the other day I saw a home run hit by the opposition that was OBVIOUSLY a foul ball. The guy who hit it just stood a little ways from home plate and was more surprised than anyone when the ump told him to round the bases. Then there are some close plays at the bases that Kia seems to be getting shafted on so far. But things will change. I'm confident.

So anyway this game started at 6:30 like most other midweek games. Here's a pic of the crew warming up shortly before what turned out to be the best game of the season so far.

Notice the big scoreboard clock that reads just before 6:30. And also notice how light it is outside. And how sober the fans appear. LOL. Things were about to change.

There is a curious rule in the Korean Baseball Organization. Well, more than just one but I bring this one up cuz it comes to bear on the situation I'm describing. You see, unlike major league games, if KBO games are tied after 12 innings are completed they are just considered to be ties. (Interestingly in the playoffs the same thing goes for 15 inning ties. They just REPLAY THEM!)

I think you can guess where things are going from here. Sure enough things were tied 6-6 in the 12th inning. But being the home team Kia held off the "Woori Heroes" in the top of the 12th to ensure that they would not LOSE the game. And in their half of the 12th they managed to load the bases with only one out. The following video is one of the biggest disappointments so far in my film/pic taking days with this camera.

I think this vid will give you all a pretty good indication of what happens at a game here in Korea. It's non-stop chanting and cheering for the home club. I like it. So do a lot of people I've brought out to their first ball games here. It's just a really great way to spend some free time. At any rate, this vid was so big a dissappointment because the very next pitch turned out to be the game winning RBI single by Lee Hyeon Gon. He is not the best hitter on Kia but he did somehow manage to win the batting title last year. So he was the perfect guy to come up with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 12th. And he was hitless for his last two games too if I'm not mistaken. But he delivered. Just after I stopped filming. OF COURSE!!! The very next pitch was the game winning hit. Dammit.

Note the slurrrrr in my voice. Another thing that is maybe a bit foreign is the fact that there are ladies coming around quite often to serve the patrons alcoholic beverages at the stadium. I usually take full advantage of this. And, as you may be able to tell, this night was no exception.

Here is a pic of the final scoreboard just moments after the bench clearing mob that buried Lee Hyun Gon after his game-winning hit. Look at the time! It was almost a 5 hour game! But nobody in the stands was complaining. Including me. Bang for the buck, baby!

But if I were to have chosen the MVP of this game it would have been Lee Taek Geun from the other team. He had 6 hits! AND A WALK! What a night for him! But in a LOSING cause. I wonder how many times a guy has had 6 hits in a losing cause. Crazy! But it was an awesome game! Especially since, (as you may be able to tell), Kia was down 4-0 at one point.

Anyway, I just hope they do well this year and make it into the playoffs. 4 of 8 teams make it. So they have to work at it but it shouldn't be something they feel isn't deserved. Not in my opinion anyway.

Okay I better end this here. Catch a game any time you can.

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