Among the best experiences we’ve had in Busan have been our visits to Sajik Stadium to watch the Giants. Any American baseball fan who’s ever complained about their team’s high ticket prices, expensive food and drink, or paltry attendance, should definitely pencil in a day at the park while in Busan. This is the stadium experience perfected.
First off, tickets are super cheap. We paid ?7000 ($6.30) for seats in the outfield. Better seats down the lines aren’t much more, though they can be difficult to get ahold of. The Giants are incredibly popular, and home games sell out quickly. On a sunny Saturday, we showed up two hours early and tickets were already gone. Luckily, plenty of scalpers hang around and we were able to score a couple tickets for a big markup (?15,000 instead of 7000).
You can get tickets at Busan Bank on the day before the game (note: not the day of). They only sell general admission (outfield) entries, but at least you’ll have them in advance and not have to wait in the frustratingly long lines at Sajik. Alternatively, you can get tickets on the Lotte Giants website, but only if you’re a Korean or have a Korean friend who can do it for you. It’s not just the language — they actually restrict online sales to citizens.
Once you’ve got your tickets, you might want to do some shopping before entering the stadium. This was the single most shocking thing to me about baseball in Korea. Spectators are allowed to carry in whatever food and drink they want, and everybody does so. We watched in awe as fans arrived with stacks of pizza, cases of beer, plates of sushi, buckets of chicken. Compared to the US, where they’ll search your backpack and confiscate half-empty water bottles, this is amazing. I couldn’t get over it.
We didn’t bring anything on our first trip to Sajik, but were well prepared on the second. There’s a superstore called Home Plus near the stadium, and inside is a chain called “Redcap” which has stacks of pizzas ready to go for hungry fans on their way to the game. We got one, and picked up beer and chicken in the supermarket. And now, properly supplied, we could march into the stadium like pros.
But even if you show up to the stadium without any of your own beer, there’s no worry. Inside the park, they only cost ?2000 a can ($1.80). Food is cheap, too.
So, we’re already having a great time before any players take the field, but the atmosphere really improves once the game gets going. The Giants are the most popular team in Korea, continually setting attendance records, and their fans are wild about them. Jerseys and hats are requisite gear; based on the numbers worn in our immediate vicinity, the most popular players seemed to be #12 (Kim Joo Chan) and #47 (Kang Min Ho). We also saw a weird amount of Cleveland Indians t-shirts and hats. Busan-born Shin-Soo Choo is their right fielder, and Busanites have accordingly turned themselves into boosters of the Tribe. Hey Cleveland, did you know you’ve got a big fan base in southern Korea?!
We seem to be good luck charms for the Giants, who’ve won both games we’ve attended. In the first inning of the match against the Nexen Heroes, they even hit a grand slam. And we got a video of it! There were three home runs in this 8-0 blowout, and the crowd was going wild. The atmosphere inside the stadium rocks. People dancing in their seats, cheering on the big stars, watching the sexy cheerleaders jiggle to K-Pop between innings, booing opposing pitchers when they check the runner at first, and doing the wave.
I’ve never seen a slow-motion wave, and in fact have never heard of one; I wouldn’t have considered such a thing possible and, in the US, it probably wouldn’t be. But here, the crowd fully participates in this amazing feat of coordination, slowly standing out of their seats when the snail-paced wave finally reaches them. Then, when the wave hits the “Exciting Section” (really, that’s its name), it kicks into super-speed. It’s fun, especially when the game is an 8-0 blowout which doesn’t require a lot of attention.
“Lotte”, by the way, is the name of a major company here in Korea. In the US, we might name our stadiums after corporations, but not our teams! It’s kind of weird to see a crowd full of happy families and impressionable children singing “Lot-te Lotte LOTTTT-te!”; the company’s coporate overlords must be delighted about the mass brainwashing going on in Sajik. Towards the end of the game, plastic orange Lotte shopping bags are distributed throughout the crowd, who tie them onto their heads. Again: a tradition of putting plastic bags onto childrens’ heads? It would never happen in the States.
So, though I never would have expected it, baseball in Korea turns out to be an amazing experience. Don’t pass up a chance to visit Sajik Stadium, when in Busan.