This last weekend I made the train ride up to Seoul to check out some of the baseball action up north. There are 3 stadiums in the Seoul area, 2 in Seoul and 1 in Incheon. The plan was to head up Friday and come back late Sunday night while taking in 1 new stadium a night. My first stop was Mokdong Baseball Stadium in western Seoul.
Mokdong Stadium is home to the NEXEN Heroes. The Heroes have a strong tradition in the KBO winning the championship 4 times (2nd only to Kia’s 10 titles). However, this year NEXEN is mired at the bottom of the standings. On Friday night, NEXEN happened to be playing the Kia Tigers, who again are near the top of the standings.
The game was a very good one. Both starters had strong performances but came away with no decisions. The game was tied after 9, and I thought I might see my first ever tie baseball game. The rules here are a little different than back home. If the game is tied after 12 innings, the game ends in a tie. I understand why they have the rule, but I am not a big fan of it. However, I am one of the fans who not only roots for free baseball (what I call extra innings), but I am one that wants to be at the park to witness the 18 or 20 inning game.
I would not see my first tie game, but I would see another first. In the top of the 10th Kia would score to go ahead, but NEXEN would not quit. They tied the game in the bottom half of the inning. So onto the 11th we would go. With a quiet half of the inning from Kia, NEXEN came to bat with a chance to win it, and this is where it got interesting.
With 2 outs in the inning and runners on first and second, reliever Lee Dong-hyeon would unleash a wild pitch to put runners at 2nd and 3rd. But he wasn’t finished. After walking the batter to load the bases, Lee Dong-hyeon then unleashed a 2nd wild pitch allowing the runner from 3rd to score the winning run. This was my first walk-off wild pitch at a professional game. After seeing the replays on TV a few nights later, the catcher didn’t do him any favors. He simply tried to backhand both pitches, and they both got by him. Anyway the damage was done and NEXEN walked away with the win.
A few notes about the game and the stadium:
- The Kia Tigers fans traveled well. There were a lot of them, they actually outnumbered the Heroes fans, and they were very loud. Any hit or out was cheered in unison which was very impressive.
- I arrived early to see batting practice, and as I stood down the left field line I almost got hit by a ball. It was drizzling so I had my umbrella out when one of the Tigers players hits a screaming line drive home run down the line right at me. My first instinct was to try and catch it. Then I realized I was holding my umbrella so I thought of trying to catch it with the umbrella. I quickly realized this was not a smart thing to do so at the last second I simply moved out of the way. The ball landed behind me where I picked it up and gave it to one of the two young boys who came running up after it.
- In the top of the 5th with the score tied 1-1, Kia attempted to run the squeeze play with runners at 1st and 3rd. They just happened to run it horribly. A new left handed pitcher had just been brought in, and the first thing he does is throw over to 1st base two straight times. Both times the Tigers gave away they were running the squeeze. So what does NEXEN do, pitch out and catch the squeeze play still on. I thought it was painfully obvious what they wanted to do, and apparently so did the NEXEN manager.
All in all it was a fun night. The crowd was into the game, and there was enough action to keep it interesting. I can’t wait to get back and see another game there.
Next time I’ll be talking about my trip to Jamsil Stadium in Seoul, home of the LG Twins and Doosan Bears (yes they share the stadium). ‘Till then, here are a few pictures from Mokdong Stadium.