Hey. there’s baseball going on! My body happens to wake up around 5:30 a.m. most morning for reasons unclear, and so I caught most of the KBO action on ESPN the last two days. It’s real, live baseball, on my TV. It’s fabulous.
I got an email from reader Nicholas this week asking, “Do you have a KBO team picked out? Which team should a Mets fan support? I’m hearing LG Twins and Lotte Giants? Would love your thoughts.”
My initial thought was that it doesn’t matter much, because it’s so freakin’ great that there’s baseball to watch that you can just root for dingers. Then I decided to dive into some English-language KBO information so I could at least caution people against rooting for the Yankees of Korea, which seems to be the Bears. Bears suck!
The baseball Twitter-sphere en masse seems to have adopted the NC Dinos, so I knew I didn’t want to pick the NC Dinos. Not trying to root for the craft beer of Korean baseball teams.
I know very little about South Korea, if I’m being honest. But I know its movie industry churns out some truly badass horror movies because my old roommate used to watch them all the time, and because I caught a particularly awesome one in a bar in Austin at a bachelor party a couple years ago and wound up totally sucked in. That one, a zombie movie set on a train, was called Train to Busan, and the Lotte Giants play in Busan. But the Lotte Giants went 48-93 last year, and while I’m not trying to be a bandwagon Bears fan, I’m also not trying to jump on a wagon that apparently did not survive the zombie infestation.
I totally judge books by their cover, so I next thought that maybe I could pick a KBO team based on uniforms. But it turns out the KBO, just like MLB, has a pretty narrow range of color schemes, and most of them are just blue or red or blue and red. I fell pretty hard for the Kiwoom Heroes, because they have the temerity to wear burgundy and silver (and because they play in an awesome looking dome that I’d love to someday visit if such things are ever allowed again).
Then, while trying to find someplace to sell me a Kiwoom Heroes hat, a Google Image search for “Kiwoom Heroes” hat returned a familiar face: Brandon Knight, who made two starts for the 2008 Mets, pitched for the heroes from 2011-2014 and is now their pitching coach. I remember what Knight looked like because he was one of my first-ever on-camera interviews at SNY, which we did because I was interested in his itinerant baseball lifestyle even he spent six years in the KBO.
Ready to go all-in for the Kiwoom Heroes on account of their association with one random dude who threw 12 innings for the 2008 Mets, I went to the ESPN broadcast schedule and learned that the Heroes aren’t on there at all. So nuts to that idea.
Finally, I texted a Mets-fan friend who lived in Korea until he was 11. He offered a definitive answer: The LG Twins. I know this guy to be a man of distinguishing taste, and he said the Twins were his favorite team as a kid. He compared them to the Mets, in that they’re the perpetual “younger brother” team to the Bears, with whom they share a stadium.
And when I thought about it, I already kind of felt for the Twins. In the first KBO game I ever watched — way back on yesterday morning — they got torched by the stupid Bears. But I found a bunch of their players especially appealing. Their starter, Song Eun-Beom, kept cracking wry smiles on the mound, which struck me because pitchers in the U.S. almost never smile when they’re anywhere between the lines. One of their relievers, Kim Dae-Yu, wears No. 69. Their first baseman, Roberto Ramos, is the classic type of Quad-A masher I will be insisting the Mets pick up in a few years when they need a lefty bat for the bench. And their DH, Park Yong-Taek, is Korea’s all-time hits leader and, based on his Wikipedia photo, looks like a dude who might adjunct at Pratt and hang out at my friends’ bar.
So I’m all in for the Twins.
Also, for what it’s worth: I don’t want to beat up on ESPN too much because a) I realize the people in charge of putting together these broadcasts have presumably been rushed into them, b) it doesn’t read well for a dude who couldn’t hack it in baseball media to be doing baseball media criticism, and c) at least they don’t have a stupid K-Zone overlay, but I really wish they’d shift the focus to the games and away from… everything but the games. It’s obvious they’re doing everything they can to make live KBO baseball appeal to American audiences, but what really appeals to me is live baseball.
There’s a school of thought in media — and I can’t say if they’re guilty of this — that says you should never admit to not knowing about something, and I’ve always thought it kind of dumb even if I understand why it exists. In this particular situation, I feel like no one at all would judge the ESPN broadcasters if they just said, “We’re new to this, too, we’re doing our best to learn the players and their stories just like you are.” Right? Who’s expecting Karl Ravech to come in as a KBO expert? I’m sure there are countless desperate, bilingual 24-year-old baseball fans who’d kill to make $20 an hour translating Korean baseball articles for Eduardo Perez. I want to hear more about what I’m watching, not what I’m not watching.