The Korean Baseball Organization is giving sports fans something to watch as the world deals with the coronavirus pandemic and an absence of live sports.
When you tune into ESPN to catch one of these KBO games, you might be slightly thrown off about what exactly is in the stands.
At first it looks like the normal spectator, but when you take a harder look you’ll notice that all the people aren’t moving and they’re all actually just cardboard cutouts.
Yes that’s right, cardboard cutouts. The KBO is making an effort to give the players and viewers the experience that they’d normally have in a live game, including having some of the team’s cheerleaders on top of the dugout encouraging the cardboard crowd to somehow get louder.
It’s not the most ideal scenario, but at least the KBO is trying to make sports somehow exist in the middle of a pandemic. This attempt at normalcy includes an abundance of precautions.
Each player is required to have their temperature taken twice a day. If they show any signs at all they’ll be sent to quarantine and the stadium with the affiliated player will be immediately closed. They have the approach that one positive test cannot shut the whole league down.
Besides all the intricate details that everyone has to deal with due to COVID-19, when you get down to the game of baseball, this league offers legit talent.
One of them is Byung-ho Park. The two-time KBO MVP and former Minnesota Twin has been the main attraction of the league for the past several years. Byung-ho resonates with the fans because of his notorious bat flips after he hits a homerun.
On the rubber you’ll find the Kia Tigers’ star pitcher Hyeon-Jong Yang, The hard-throwing lefty has been among the top 10 in strikeouts per game the last five years of the KBO. Yang has drawn some major league interest, but now at 32 he’s one of the league's most respected veterans.
As the talent differs from the MLB, so do some of the rules. If you were a fan of the 1-1 game in the bottom of the 18th inning, you probably won’t like this one.
The KBO declares a tie after the 12th inning if both teams still haven’t outscored each other. This is extremely beneficial to both teams' pitching staffs.
If the game ends earlie, the teams don’t have to exhaust most of their bullpens and the pitching rotations won’t be dysfunctional later down the schedule.
They also have a league-wide designated hitter which means pitchers don't hit as they usually would in the MLB, creating more opportunities for high score games.
It might be a little different from what you're used to as a baseball fan, but one thing's for sure, the KBO is now the spotlight of sports.