Take me out to the ball game
October 19, 2012
GYEONGGIDO, South Korea - Two on, two out, down by three. These words mean absolutely nothing to many 2nd Infantry Division soldiers.
As the American Major League Baseball regular season concluded this month and the "boys of summer" began the playoffs en route to the World Series, there is little debate in 2nd Infantry Division as to whether the designated hitter is good for baseball or not.
As a recent completely unscientific and haphazardly conducted survey of a very small sample of 2nd Infantry Division soldiers indicated, nobody really cares much about baseball here in Korea.
How can that be, isn't baseball America's favorite pastime?
While baseball might be America's favorite pastime, it is apparently not the favorite sport of America's Army here in Korea. However, there are few here in 2nd Infantry Division who haven't given over to the bloody lure of mixed martial arts, the brain debilitating destruction of the NFL, the mesmerizing snare of competitive curling or the siren's call of Korean badminton.
For those who might not have noticed, the Baltimore Orioles made it the playoffs for the first time in 15 years. In fact, they knocked off the perennial champ Texas Rangers in MLB's new Wild Card playoff round before losing to the Imperial Empire of Major League Baseball, the New York Yankees.
When informed of the O's success, Sgt. Melissa Johnson, a native of Chambersburg, Va., from the division G1 section was more than slightly surprised. Apparently she had not been following the O's battle with the Yankees for first place this year in the American League East.
"I like their colors," she said, "and the little bird."
Staff Sgt. Marc Rich, from Miami, works in the division G8 section and is big Miami Marlins fan. Although it was another disappointing year for the Marlins, who could not win despite their snazzy new uniforms, Rich has faith in his team.
"I hear up north they don't like bright colors, but down in Florida we like some flash and style," said Rich.
Although many may think the Marlin's new uniforms are garish, Rich is not concerned.
"I pay them no mind," he said, "we've got (top player) Jose Reyes."
Although not much interested in baseball history or strategy, Staff Sgt. Tamiya Alford, the division command sergeant major's executive administrative assistant from Angier, N.C., is a fan.
"I like looking at the players in those uniforms," Alford said.
Koreans are into baseball, aren't they? In fact, Cpl. Kim Jung-il's favorite American baseball team is the Chicago Bulls. Okay, perhaps Kim is not the best example.
Korea has great professional baseball though, the Korean Baseball Organization. Pvt. Han Sung-ku, the commanding general's interpreter is a big fan of the Lotte Giants. Ironically his least favorite American baseball team is the San Francisco Giants.
"I hate Barry Bonds," said Han.
Unfortunately for Han though his boss, Maj. Gen. Cardon, is a San Francisco Giants fan and the Giants pulled out a stunning playoff series victory over the Cincinnati Reds last week. Don't worry Han, the CG will probably never find out how much you hate his beloved Giants, until he reads this that is.
There are many in 2nd Infantry Division who have a definite aversion to baseball. Sgt. Bradley Cannon of Columbus, Ohio, is the 2nd Infantry Division combatives instructor. Baseball doesn't tickle his fancy though.
"Not enough contact for me," Cannon said.
Another Ohioan, Sgt. Aaron Mason from the division G6 section can only associate baseball with nap time.
Staff Sgt. Angelis Pseftis , the division command sergeant major's aide is from Boston, so naturally he is a Red Sox fan. He, for one though, was happy he could not really follow his beloved Sox here in Korea.
"Pathetic. That's how they were this year! Pathetic," said Pseftis. "I would not consider it a problem that I could not follow them here in Korea. I was spared from watching."
Still, you can't keep some 2nd Infantry Division soldiers from keeping up with their favorite team, even here in Korea. Sgt. Alston Jacobs, from St. Louis, works in the division G1 shop and expects his Cardinals, who lost all-star slugger Albert Pujols to the Los Angeles Angels last year, to go all the way this year.
Of Pujols' departure, Jacobs said, "We don't need him, we've got Mr. Freese."
Jacobs takes any steps necessary to keep up with the Cards here in Korea and has even resorted to ooVoo, an online video-teleconference service similar to Skype.
"I usually keep track online but have had to use ooVoo before and ask my Family to turn their computer screen toward the TV at home so I can watch the game," said Jacobs.
Now, that is the type of rabid fandom that made baseball America's sport. But there is more to being a fan of the game than that.
Maj. Shari Bennett, the 2nd Infantry Division Headquarters and Headquarters executive officers and native of Virginia Beach, Va., says that following the Yankees is a family affair. She watches games with her husband Michael, daughter Nadia, 11, and sons Jalen, 4, and Micah, 3.
Michael is from Brooklyn and watching the Yankees is quality time for the family, she said.
"The kids put on their Yankees hats and watch the game with dad; it's a great for everyone," she said.
That's why baseball is America's favorite pastime, even here in Korea. Leave it to someone who knows.
"Baseball was, is and always will be to me the best game in the world," said Babe Ruth.