A Fan Gives Advice On How To Watch Korean Baseball
AILSA CHANG, HOST:
It's 5 o'clock somewhere, and it is opening day somewhere, too.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: First pitch of opening day in the Korea Baseball Organization - ball one.
CHANG: ESPN has a deal to air Korean baseball live six games a week. Opening day is today - well, technically, late last night in the U.S.
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
It may not be Wrigley Field in May, but don't tell Dan Kurtz.
DAN KURTZ: I am very excited. You literally had to pinch me yesterday to say, like - what? I can turn on the supposed world sports leader and watch Korean baseball at a time that was normal for me at 10 p.m.? I was like, this is amazing.
SHAPIRO: Dan Kurtz has followed the Korea Baseball Organization for 20 years. He runs what may be the definitive English-language KBO website, mykbo.net. He says he first learned about the league on a trip to South Korea in 1999.
KURTZ: I myself was adopted when I was the age of four months to the United States. I had not been back until that trip back in 1999. I learned about the professional sports leagues there in Korea, and then the following year I decided to study abroad. And that's when I went to my first KBO baseball game, and that's when I got hooked.
CHANG: So we called Kurtz for some tips to help you get hooked. Say you're one of those Duke, Yankees, Patriot fans. You know, you like a winner. Which of the 10 teams should you root for?
KURTZ: Well, if you like a lot of championships, well, then the first team would be the KIA Tigers. Although they've not won in the last couple years, they have the most KBO titles. They have 11 of them. So I always compare them - their counterpart would be the New York Yankees. But if you want just a dominant team like the Patriots of the last five years, that would be the Doosan Bears. They've won the championship 3 out of 6 times the last time they've been in it. They've just been dominant these last five to six years.
SHAPIRO: Kurtz says the game is basically the same - nine innings of balls and strikes, pitchers and batters. But the unwritten rules can be a little different, like when a younger pitcher accidentally hits a veteran batter with a pitch.
KURTZ: If that younger pitcher is not taking off his hat and kind of bowing his head as a sign of remorse - if he does not do that, the benches will empty, and they will fight. Just because of the hierarchy and age difference, he has to show that he is sorry even if he did not mean to do it and it was completely accidental.
CHANG: Dan Kurtz says although he is very happy the KBO is on his TV, there is one big difference in the broadcasts in these coronavirus days that does bum him out.
KURTZ: When you go, and fans are allowed in, you just don't sit down. It's like you're at a concert. You're singing. You're clapping. You're cheering. You're hitting thunder sticks. You're just having a really good time. And now to take that all away, it's just been very different contrast when you watch it on TV. All of a sudden, it's silent. You can hear the bat hit the ball. You can hear coaches talking to each other. You can hear the umps yelling, which - you would never hear that during a regular game because you'd be bombarded by music and cheering.
SHAPIRO: So in honor of Dan Kurtz and his love of the KBO, get out your thunder sticks. Sing your loudest "Sweet Caroline" live in the middle of the night six times a week in Korean if you can. Happy baseball season.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SWEET CAROLINE")
NEIL DIAMOND: (Singing) Sweet Caroline, good times never seemed so good. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.