Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Team Korea

It seems a little late to post on Sunday's second game, Korea vs. Mexico. But really quickly: it was wild. Over 50,000 people in the stands, 90% of whom were strong Mexico or Korea partisans (they were divided about equally). From the noise at the beginning it felt like playoff baseball - except there were also flags everywhere, and chants I couldn't understand. But as tends to happen when there's too much nationalistic fervor, it got sort of ugly. I heard lots of booing, epithets, and loud curses in Spanish - possibly Korean as well (I wouldn't know). Apparently there was a lot of booing in last night's game as well, though I like to think that was directed towards Team U.S.A., who sucked. The game itself was good - Rodrigo Lopez was terrible in the 1st but settled down, and it became a pitching duel. Seo looked really good. Final score, 2-1. Also, temps were in the 40's, which is very cold for Southern California, and really might be the coldest it's ever been for a baseball game in the area.

A couple random notes:
  • It's pretty obvious by now, but even before they thrashed the US, it was clear: Team Korea is for real. They look really good, and have all but ensured a trip to the semis (meaning there won't be a USA-Japan rematch).
  • Korea has five "Lee"s in their lineup. I was hoping for a Lee-to-Lee-to-Lee double play, but it didn't happen.
  • One of them, Seung-Yeop Lee, is a beast. After 5 games, he's 8-for-17 (.471), with five home runs, for an OBP of .523 and a SLG of 1.353. (He plays professionally in Japan.)
  • And they've made Chan Ho Park, who's apparently not a joke in Korea, their closer. He's pitched 5 innings in 3 games, for 3 saves. Given up 3 hits, no walks, and no runs. Interesting.
  • On the other hand, their uniforms (baby blue with block lettering, and a big capital K on the hat) look even worse on the field than they do on TV. And there's a little Nike Swoosh on their neck. (Which is bad, but not as bad as what Randy Winn did.)
  • Finally, judging from the size of the crowd showing up for a game on 8pm Sunday in the "cold", baseball made a big mistake picking Phoenix and Orlando for Round 1. Those two cities get Spring Training games. Give Round 1 to other big cities, with large immigrant populations (I'm thinking New York and San Francisco), and you get 50,000+ people at every game. I suppose weather was a concern.

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