Soldiers, families share excitement of Korean baseball
May 27, 2009
SEOUL -- Over 200 Soldiers from the 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division were invited to Seoul's Jamsil Olympic Stadium to watch two of Korea's professional baseball teams duke it out.
The Hanwha Eagles and the LG Twins squared off May 23rd before the typically sportive Korean audience, with members of the Iron Brigade seated between the third and home bases.
"The idea to organize this event originated from a discussion about baseball between our commander and Colonel Shin, a R.O.K. Army officer working for U.S. Forces Korea during a recent joint exercise," said Lt. Col. Brian Ebert, Civil Affairs Officer for 1HBCT. "Colonel Shin got us in touch with the Hanhwa Eagles organization and they were gracious enough to offer up a large number of tickets for our Soldiers and family members."
Along with free tickets, Soldiers and family members also received team memorabilia to help cheer on the team. "Not only did they provide the tickets, they gave everyone Hanhwa Eagles hats and the inflatable slapsticks that you see all the fans here with," said Ebert.
Korean sports fans became recognized across the globe during the 2002 World Cup hosted here. Local fans in the stadiums, known as the Red Devils, were known for the thunderous support of the Korean national soccer team including the use of musical instruments, inflatable slapsticks, and chanting phrases like Dae-han Minguk, or Republic of Korea.
That excitement can still be seen today at many of Korea's professional and national sports venues as loyal fans often paint themselves with intricate designs, wear colored outfits and erupt with choreographed chants and cheers.
"It's amazing here. The atmosphere here is like when I went to see the New York Yankees in the playoffs a few years ago, but this is just a regular season game," said Pvt. Ryan Sechrist, Echo Company, 1st Battalion, 72nd Armor Regiment. "I had heard about how much they (Koreans) were into sports, and it got me so pumped up as soon as I got in here."
During the fourth inning, a welcome message for the brigade appeared on the digital big board for all in attendance to see, followed by a gift exchange after the fifth inning between Col. Thomas Graves, commander of 1HBCT, and a representative accepting on behalf of Mr. Seung Yonn Kim, President of the Hanhwa Eagles organization.
This game remained close throughout the evening and Soldiers helped cheer on the team by participating in the chants spurned on by fans of the Eagles, and providing some additional help by starting a stadium 'wave'.
The game was exciting from beginning to end. The Hanhwa Eagles started off with a 3-1 lead by the second inning. The LG Twins managed to come back to tie and then take the lead by one in the seventh inning.
When asked who he thought would win the game Sechrist replied, "The Eagles have the two biggest hitters in Lee Bum Ho and Kim Tae Kyun. They may have low averages but they always come back. I think the Eagles can do it."
At the top of the ninth with two outs and a man on first, the Eagles' Lee Bum Ho hit a triple which was the eventual game winning run. Final score: Hanhwa Eagles 6, LG Twins 5.
"Events like these help enhance relations between Soldiers and Koreans by bringing them together to share in the spirit of competition," said Ebert.