My baseball craving was only very slightly sated by an emergency trip to Daejeon to see the Hanwha Eagles on Saturday 15th April, but that trip was rushed. Very rushed. So I didn’t have time to have much of a wander around what looks to be a very nice stadium.
I made sure I had plenty of time for wandering when I headed into Jamsil Stadium in Seoul for a Saturday spring training game – KIA Tigers at LG Twins. It’s a rather tedious and uncomfortable 2 hours on a very average sort of a bus from Jecheon to Dong Seoul (East Seoul) bus station. Once there though, it’s very, very easy to walk across the road from the bus station to Gangbyeon metro station and from there onto the correct train to the Sports Complex Metro station, which has an exit right next to Jamsil Stadium. It’s about as difficult as getting to Citi Field or Wrigley Field.
There’s not really anything around the stadium except for the 1988 Olympic Athletics Stadium, which is cool, but doesn’t really provide any pre-game hype or atmosphere. I didn’t go hunting for a party before or afterwards, but the Gangnam stop is only a little further down the same line and I’ll probably be having a bit more of poke around and get a better idea of how to get to Itaewon and its “big and tall” clothing the next time I’m in town.
The stadium itself is not really anything to write home about, but the angle of the seats is about perfect. Not so steep that you get vertigo, but there’s no way anyone is blocking your vision of the action either. I felt further back from the play than usual for the level of seats that I picked and that seemed particularly true given the narrowness of the walkways and concourses.
The forecourt of the stadium had some interesting food options – I particularly liked the idea of ‘stylish potato,’ but instead indulged myself in a nice old-fashioned latte. I’ve recently heard South Korea described as 70% mountains and the rest is coffee shops. It’s not _quite_ like that, because that person forgot about the hiking shops. But I digress, because there weren’t any hiking shops in the Jamsil Stadium forecourt – though I imagine that is an oversight that will be rectified at some point in the near future.
Inside the stadium itself there is a KFC and a small snacks shop in between pretty much every access from the concourse to the stands. There are also plenty of bathrooms that are in reasonably good shape, though I did see a queue outside the mens behind the LG cheering section which rather surprised me. Public bathrooms are delightfully, wonderfully free and clean all over Korea and that holds true in the stadium also.
As is standard for the regular season, at spring training you simply take into the stadium whatever you want to eat and drink for the day. There was no security check or anything. It’s polite to bag your rubbish and take it out of the stands and leave it by a pillar on the concourse on your way out. If you hang around a little bit before heading out, it’ll be obvious where to put your rubbish, because there will be an enormous mound of it.
At spring training, there were also no tickets or assigned seats, so even arriving an hour early for a game was far too late to get a really good spot, even as a solo traveller.
The stadium holds under 30,000, and is very clearly split into the home and visiting sides. The first-base dug-out held the home team and the stands behind them were full of the shiny vinyl jackets of the LG Twins supporters. There’s also a small stage for the LG cheerleader and his amplification and the drummer to share. I highly recommend getting in a spot where you can see the cheerleader (solo) as he is solid-gold entertainment all on his own. His role is to actually lead the crowd’s cheering which consists of a number of chants and songs with synchronised thunder-stick waving. The LG crowd is great fun to watch, to listen to and to be part of.
It was surprisingly hot – especially coming down from chilly Jecheon. My kids have told me that Jecheon is the second-coldest place in Korea and it certainly seems to be warmer everywhere else that I go. But I really wasn’t expecting to be overly warm in the sunshine down the third-base side. I stripped down to my t-shirt and jeans, exposing my arms and making people around me visibly uncomfortable – and was still HOT, despite the temperature only being 16 degrees. I ended up moving during the 6th inning because I was pretty sure I was getting burned. I dread to think how hot it will be on the visitors’ side during summer.
After the game, the crowd cleared in very short order, which was good. The Seoul public transport system is so quick and efficient that by the time I wandered out to the forecourt, got a cup of coffee and then spent a couple of minutes waiting to see what everyone was waiting for outside the stadium* – the crowd had completely disappeared.
I’m looking forward to getting back to Seoul and having a much longer poke around. I’m hoping that the weekend of my birthday – which is a public holiday here, will provide me with plenty of opportunities to see the Doosan Bears (the other team at Jamsil), the SK Wyverns (at Munhak Stadium in Incheon) and the Nexen Heroes (at Mokdong Stadium in Seoul).
*Players. It turned out that everyone was waiting for players. I’m not really sure what to do with that. I feel intensely awkward whenever I am so unlucky as to recognise a recognisable person on the street. Actually chasing them down to talk to them – what on earth do people say and do? I’m fine at conventions with authors I don’t know, but I remember how badly I struggled when loving friends pushed me into talking to Charles de Lint, bless his kind heart.