Almanac Baseball: Seoul Time

The World Series has slipped into the memory bank as the ABL has hit its stride now with the completion of the 3rd round of a 10 round season. The contest between the Melbourne Aces and Geelong Korea may well be the most hyped hitout in ABL history with the Aces GM, Justin Huber, going on ABC News Breakfast and proclaiming that as many as 30 million Koreans may be tuning in. That is a figure I was struggling to come to terms with as my experience of viewer numbers has been the counter I see on YouTube when I stream a game. Rest assured, I have never seen anything like millions of viewers, with the average being a few hundred. Regardless of how many people tuned in, there is nothing like being at the ballpark.


Yesterday was a cool, precocious summer day that we are all too familiar with in Melbourne. A nice cohort of fans, probably a similar number to those streaming the game, turned up at Altona to see the final game of the series and whether the Koreans could draw level and give their vocal fans something to cheer about. Just like what we will see with Indian fans at the upcoming Test series, one has to marvel at the colour and movement foreign fans bring to a sporting event. They love to cheer and revel in a communal bonhomie that is often missing from us Antipodeans.


Out on the field, it was clear there was a mismatch of talent. The Aces scored solidly and consistently throughout the game. Initially, it was based on walks and getting on base by plays that should have been made by the visitors, but deeper in the game the Aces’ hitters also went deeper. Homers in the 3rd, 5th and 6th put the result beyond doubt. The Aces have an impressive lineup. They bat deep and their pitching roster is solid. Defensively they are cleaner than most ABL teams, certainly more so than their opponents yesterday.


The notion of basing a team of all foreign players in one of our professional leagues is a first for Australian sport. I wish Geelong Korea all the very best. I hope many more get to experience the joy their fans bring to the stands. However, I must hit a sour note.


In the top of the 4th I witnessed a most unseemly incident. Jo-Ho Lee was at the plate with 2 outs and runners on first and second. He hit a regulation flyout that swirled in the breeze and, subsequently, proved to be an elusive catch for right fielder Garrison Schwatrz. But ‘Garry’ has shown remarkable skill this season and pulled off an absolute ripping full stretch grab inches from the turf. All Aces fans rose as one to cheer what was clearly a clean grab. We noticed, however, that the runners kept going round the bases as if he had dropped it. As the Aces made their way to the dugout, the mascot led a team of kids onto the outfield for a bit of impromptu dancing (it is an American game after all). The GK manager made his way out to remonstrate with the first base umpire. The umpire seemed as shocked as the rest of us. After a minute or so, the manager made his way back to his dugout.


The video review system of catches has been a contentious issue in cricket in recent years. In baseball, however, the old norms prevail. If a catcher claims a catch the decision is accepted and we all move on. There wasn’t a single person in the stands that I heard questioning the fairness of a great play. To see the runners and the manager turn convention on its head was extremely disappointing and the worst sportsmanship I have seen for many a moon. I sincerely hope it was a brain fade by all involved.


In the end, it was a great day out. Baseball can be a wonderful bridge to our friends in Asia. Koreans are friendly, engaging people who love the game. The ABL has also signed a deal for a team of Aussies to play in the minor league in Taiwan next year so it is all upwards and onwards. One unfortunate act cannot alter that momentum. Let’s play ball.


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Grew up playing the rugby codes in suburban Sydney. Moved to Melbourne during the Carey era so becoming a Shinboner was the natural call. Still love the game they play in heaven. Took an interest in MLB a few years back and have become infatuated with America's pastime.


  1. Luke Reynolds says

    G’day Brian,
    My son began playing for our local club (Colac Braves) this winter after playing at school and really enjoying it. The Braves took all of their junior players to this game you have written about, with all of the kids running out onto the field before the game with the players.
    I went along too, after driving straight past the stadium in Altona hundreds of times over the years this was my first time there, indeed it was my first ever ABL game. Throughly enjoyed the game and the day, a fantastic spectator experience.

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