Thanks to South Korea’s early and aggressive response to COVID-19, the country is trying back to normal life after the coronavirus situation has generally concluded, with single digit cases reported on April 19 and 20 of this week.
Accordingly, the KBO’s (Korean baseball organization) opening day will be May 5, with the first “spring training” exhibition today, and there is an effort ongoing to try and make these games available to watch in the US . Baseball fans are ready to watch any baseball, even the attendanceless games happening now in Taiwan.
Per the KBO, ESPN asked about KBO broadcasting rights earlier this month, which may facilitate these games reaching US homes.
According to a report by Sports Chosun, #ESPN inquired about #KBO broadcasting rights. Talks are at preliminary stage and not anywhere close to an agreement yet. Stay tuned! pic.twitter.com/O2mP6VYfVA— Daniel Kim 대니얼 김 (@DanielKimW) April 13, 2020
It’s still in very early stages. And even if the deal doesn’t go through, the KBO seems willing to show its baseball to overseas fans.
I really hope we can see MLB games return as soon as possible, but if our wait becomes much longer, we may be able to soothe our longing for baseball by watching KBO. If that happens, I hope this introduction to Korean baseball will be helpful.
General information about KBO
South Korea is 60 % the size of Florida, with 51 million people living in nation.
There are 10 teams in the KBO, three of which are based in Seoul, where about 9.7 million people live (Due to Trump, many American may likely know this number), and two teams re in the Seoul Metropolitan area. The other five teams are scattered around the rest of the country.
Compared to Florida, considering geography, population and so on, it is as follows.
- 3 teams (Doosan, Kiwoom and LG) in the Tampa Bay area
- 2 teams (KT and SK) in Orlando
- 2 teams (Lotte and NC) in Jacksonville
- 1 team each (KIA, Hanhaw and Samsung) in Fort Myers, Gainesville and Tallahassee
(Editor’s Note: In this illustration, everything south of Ft. Myers is the ocean!)
The KBO is a more pitching-friendly league — 4.18 League ERA, vs 4.51 in MLB in 2019 — and hitters are more focused on contact and ball in play, although not as much as Japanese baseball. Korean baseball is about middle between Japan and MLB when it comes to that approach.
To illustrate, here is a breakdown of league averages on offense from 2019:
Interestingly, the KBO was hitter-friendly league like MLB in 2018. However, they thought too many Runs made the game longer and fans must hate it. So they made the ball didn’t fly further, and I wrote about that before.
Most of the foreign players coming to the KBO are “quad-A” level in the States, and there are many good Korean players as well.
I’ve watched Milb games for more than 15 years, and have found KBO performance to be similar to the AA-AAA level on an individual level, but sometimes unprepared and not polished players must play as well because of thin depth. A foreign player once said that KBO is a league where A-ball players play alongside AAA level ones.
The overall performance of teams in the MLB versus the KBO can seem extreme. It is akin to watching college baseball.
The players show a lot more personality on the field. Korea is small country, there are only a few dozen high school and college teams. Most of the players in the KBO have known each other from childhood. That is another reason why I compared only North and Centreal Florida to Korea. Imagine that all the regional baseball players from Central Florida High Schools have reached the pro level together. There are sure to be a lot more fireworks!
Just as the players show more personality on the field, the fans in the stand do as well. The KBO is famous for their Cheer Culture.
In my next article I will introduce each team. I think it would be good to decide which team to cheer for after seeing that introduction!