Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Take me out to the ball game, take me out to the crowd...

Last night I ticked off another item on my bucket list: Eat dried squid, fried chicken and drink soju at a baseball game. Bonus points for figuring out how to cheer along.

It wasn't my first baseball game, but it was the first time I completely satisfied the criteria of it. And now I'm going to tell you how to do it.

Step 1: Acquire tickets in the party section. You can buy tickets for the 'free seating' area at the stadium, but the party zone usually sells out quite quickly. If you want to sit around and watch the baseball seriously and be glum, and the very idea of fun repulses you, you'll like the free seating area.
My first baseball game, sitting in the free seating area. I still had fun, though! 
If, however, you want to get the full Korean baseball experience, then there's really only one place to be: the 'Blue Zone'. Party central. This is the area that has sexy cheerleaders, free stuff, a lot of shouting and singing, beer challenges, kiss cams, cutey dance cams, couple dance cams, and so on. If you're a foreigner, there's a good chance of you appearing on the screen, especially if you're decked out in the paraphernalia of your team.

I got a free towel! YEAH!
And if you're in team gear and going for it with the cheers, then the Koreans around you will love you. And they'll befriend you, and give you food, and stuff like that. Last night I was given chicken and dried squid, which is the closest thing I can get to biltong in this country, although it tastes completely different.

Eating ramyeon with new friends. We kept hitting him with our thundersticks, by accident. 
So, yes. The party seats are DEFINITELY worth it and they only cost about 1000 won more. Ticket prices vary depending on who's playing. You will need to buy them online, using something like ticketlink (which I'll write about another time because I don't know how to do it and I rely heavily on a fabulous friend who buys them for our group).

Step 2: Acquire food and beverages.
An awesome thing about Korean baseball stadiums is that you can bring in whatever food and drink you like. I've seen people walk in with huge boxes of pizza, chicken, hamburgers... Last night the group in front of us had a mountain of sushi. You can also bring in whatever booze you like, as much as you like, and no one cares. But you cannot smoke in the seating area of the stadium. You can smoke in the back, by the toilets, if you want to. You can also buy snacks (anything from ddeokbokki to squid to ramyeon) at various stores within the stadium. DO bring your own toilet paper. 

Step 3: Find your seat
As you walk into the stadium you'll see a map. Check where your seat is - make sure ALL the numbers match up. Remember that Korean addresses go from biggest first to smallest. When you find the seat that has all four numbers matching the four on your ticket, in the same order, sit there. 

Time for the game! Now, as a South African, I know an awful lot about cricket and rugby but absolutely nothing about baseball beyond a particularly American song that's been stuck in my head for hours. Here is my own Koreanised version of it:

Take me out to the baaaaall game
Take me out to the crooooowd
Buy me fried chicken and ddeokbokki
Mekju, soju and makgeolli
Let me root, root root for the home team
If they don't win it's a shame
Aaaah, for it's one, two, three strikes - you're out!
At the old ball game.

Anyway. I think I'm starting to get the hang of this, so here goes:

A Brief Guide to Baseball for People who are Less Free than 'Muricans.

There are two teams and they take turns throwing and hitting the ball. 

They're trying to hit it hard so that it goes far away, so that they have more time to run to the next sandbag. The sandbag is called a base. Once a player has made it all the way around from base to base, and back home to the dugout, he has completed a run. A run is one point. If they make it all the way around with just one whack of the ball, then that's a home run. If the ball goes too far to the side of the field, it doesn't count. 

This is how you watch baseball.

If the pitcher (the thrower) throws badly a certain number of times, then the batter just walks to the next base. Sometimes batters who are on the bases try to sneak a bit closer to the other ones so that they can quickly run there when the ball is hit. The pitcher can turn around and throw the ball to the base they were supposed to be on and that's irritating to watch when they do it too much. If the batter misses the ball three times, they are banished to outer Mongolia. If three batters are out, then the teams switch places. This switch happens nine times - that is one inning. There are nine innings. Top of the inning - the away team is batting. Bottom of the inning - the home team is batting. 

The team with the most runs wins, like in cricket.

So now you understand the game, or at least you know when it's good and when it's bad. This means you can cheer. YAY!

My students support the team and chose their shirt as their outfit for sports day. 

Step 4: Cheering along in Korean
On the screen and scoreboard is a list of the names of the players. If you can read hangul, this will help. If you can't, it's good practice and you'll see their names briefly in English on the screen. 

The most basic cheer is (Name) ANTA! Which apparently means 'Hit it low'. That way it will bounce and they won't be caught out. 

If you copy exactly what the cheerleaders and cheer guy are doing, it will help. In the Blue Zone, you can see them easily. 

Sexy cheerleaders. Also notice the emptiness of the free section and fullness of the party zone. Because that's exactly what you're looking at, right?

Some players have their own songs or cheers specially for them. Even if you don't know the song, it's pretty easy to clap and wave along, and you can join in when they say the player's name and ANTA or HOME RUN!

When our batters go out, we sing them a little goodbye song, waving them off the field with a sort of bunny gesture. 

A little bit like this.

And that's about it. I love baseball, I love going to games, and I love that my team, the Samsung Lions, are the undefeated champions. They've just reached number 1 in the country's league stats, which is awesome, and they absolutely decimated the Seoul Twins last night with 9 home runs! Bad asses. Samsung Lions! Yes, Keep Going!

Yeah, I realise their catchphrase is cheesy as hell. Cheesy is classy. Pictures in this post were edited using powerpoint, in lieu of photoshop, gimp or paint. Lolly is a goat.

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