I had the opportunity to see a few games this weekend in the Daebung Flag Championship here in Daegu. It was an interesting experience to take in high school baseball in Korea for the first time. So I thought I would share my observations from the games.
I was able to take in the quarterfinals and semifinals, so I got to see some good baseball. The first thing that stood out to me was how fundamentally sound they were. Sure there were errors, but overall they were very sound defensively for this age group. They did the little things quite well: pitcher covering first, hitting cut-off men, and always knowing where to throw the ball in a given situation. Granted these teams were the better ones in the tournament, but I was still impressed.
The pitching was solid. Most threw between 110 to 125 kph (68-77 mph). One pitcher late in the day Saturday got it up to 137 kph (about 85 mph), but the majority of them threw in the mid to high 70s. There were also a lot of sidearmers pitching. Each team seemed to have a few of them. I was also impressed with the depth of pitching. I didn’t see a drop off until late Saturday. By this time each team had played 4-5 games. That takes a lot of depth to play that many games over the course of 4 days.
The hitters were good as well, and they hit with wooden bats. I don’t know if this is what they use during non-tournament games, but I would assume so. They hit well with them, so I know this wasn’t something completely new to them.
The one thing that bothered me about the hitters was the body armor most of them wore. I am not a big fan of this at any level. There were several hit batters that was clearly due to the fact they had on the elbow pad. I don’t like the fact the hitter isn’t afraid to get hit. That’s fine if he isn’t wearing any padding, but when he is I don’t like it. Getting hit is part of the game, and so is the inside pitch which is far less effective when the hitter leans in with his elbow pad to take first base.
There were a lot of triples. The outfield played pretty shallow. I assume due to the use of wooden bats. This did allow them to take away what would normally be hits, but when someone would put one in the gap it turned into a triple because they could not cut it off.
The managers get away with murder and aren’t tossed. I don’t know if it has to do with how much they respect their elders here, but if you did half of what some of these guys did back home, you would be tossed so quick you wouldn’t know what hit you. I found it interesting too at how they would argue sometimes. One coach made a point to pull his team off the field when he was arguing a call. That was something I had never seen before.
There is a lot of respect for the other team and umpires shown by the players. Before their first at bat, players would take off their helmet and bow to the home plate umpire. The fielders would also do the same in the first inning to the umpires in the field. Korean culture has a lot to do with respect for those older than you which is good. After the games, the two teams would line up facing one another, then bow and say something. They would then cross each others lines and bow to the opposing teams dugout. The winning team would then turn and face the stands and bow to their fans.
Before the 6th inning starts, there is a break. It usually lasts about 10 minutes. Most teams would just rest in the dugout while the umpires went underneath the stands for a breather. I don’t think I would like this if I am playing. Especially if you have momentum. I can’t think of a better momentum killer than stopping the game like this.
One of the funnier things I saw was in the stands. Sure the fans that were there, and there weren’t many, really got into the game by cheering like they do at any event, but the thing that really got me smiling were the foul balls. Back home you would seen any small child running after a foul ball and fighting over them. Here it is the same except it isn’t the kids running after them. It’s grown men. I saw men jumping over rows to get balls, running down balls that went down the concourse, and 3 or 4 men almost diving for a ball in the stands trying to come up with a souvenir.
Over all I was quite pleased with my trip. I am a little disappointed I can’t watch the final today, but it is raining continuously. I am sure it will be played tomorrow instead but I have to work. I’ll keep an eye on the KBA website to see who wins. Both are hometown teams from Daegu.
Next up I am hoping to make a trip to see some college ball in a tournament starting next weekend. It runs for over a week so I have 2 weekends to try and take in a game.