Opening Day does not have the magnitude like it has in the States, but it is still Opening Day. With the recent rise in the popularity of baseball, and a few, though impactful changes made during this past offseason has baseball fans in South Korea anticipated for the 2014 regular season which begins tomorrow.
If you are an expat who is a baseball fan back in the States, one aspect that you may find interesting is the emphasis that the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) and its teams put on the ceremonial first pitch. After actress, Kang Su-yeon (강수연), became the first non-politician or non-baseball personnel to throw out the first pitch on Opening Day in 1989, this slowly began as a trend in the 90s. With Korea enjoying its entertainment industry bloom as the so-called “Korean Wave” hit overseas in the next decade, baseball in Korea has actually been utilizing it quite well. It has become more of a show than a ceremony.
So, here is the lineup of those who will do the honors throwing out the ceremonial first pitch for Opening Day:
1. Busan Sajik Baseball Stadium (Hanwha Eagles vs. Busan Lotte Giants)
Busan Metropolitan City mayor, Huh Nam-sik (허남식), becomes just the second politician to throw out the first pitch on Opening Day since 2010. Huh also did it back in 2009. It is becoming somewhat risky for politicians to throw in front of a crowd as Koreans are politically active people than you would normally think. Also, people nowadays are just plainly used to having celebrities to do the honor. There are politicians who have been booed off the field afterwards in recent years. Many of them have been a target of fierce online criticism for simply throwing out a ceremonial first pitch. Hopefully, the crowd will be aware of the efforts that his staff have put into bringing the Korea Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum to Busan.
2. Daegu Citizen Baseball Stadium (KIA Tigers vs. Samsung Lions)
If you are a Korean drama lover, one title you should remember is “Reply 1994” (응답하라 1994). It dominated the second half of 2013 by presenting old memories to those who spent their youth during the mid 90s, and baseball was a substantial element of this drama. Kim Sung-kyun (김성균), a hometown star, who played one the drama’s popular characters, will throw out the first pitch in front of his hometown crowd.
3. Munhak Baseball Stadium (Seoul Nexen Heroes vs. SK Wyverns)
The city of Incheon will host the 2014 Asian Games (XVII Asiad) this September. In hopes to promote the event, Munhak Baseball Stadium will have taekwondo practitioner, Kim Yu-jin (김유진), who won the World Championships (women’s bantanweight) last year at Puebla, Mexico, throw out the ceremonial first pitch. Kim practices for Incheon Metropolitan City.
4. Jamsil Baseball Stadium (LG Twins vs. Seoul Doosan Bears)
Deja vu 2010. In 2010, speed skater (long track) Lee Sang-hwa (이상화) won gold in the 500 metres in the Vancouver Winter Olympics and threw the ceremonial first pitch at Jamsil on Opening Day. In 2014, Lee won gold in the same event in the Sochi Winter Olympics and she will throw out the first pitch at Jamsil on Opening Day. Lee becomes the first non-politician and non-baseball personnel to do the honors on Opening Day twice. She is a Doosan Bears fan.
- Korea Baseball Organization (Mar. 27, 2014): 2014 프로 야구 개막전 시구자 확정
- Yonhap News (Mar. 27, 2014): <프로 야구> 역대 개막전 시구자(표)