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Changwon Gets Called Up to the Big Leagues

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The NC Dinos call our beloved Changwon home, and they play their first season this year as the 9th and newest member of the Korean major leagues -the Korea Baseball Championship.

The Dinos cut their chops in the Futures League last year – their first year in existence – playing other big league clubs’ minor league teams. This year, they’ll be playing those big league clubs themselves. And while expansion teams have historically fared poorly, there is good reason to be optimistic about the Dinos’ chances this year; the Dinos were awarded not only the top draft pick in this year’s Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) amateur draft, but in fact the top two draft picks. The Dinos chose 18-year-old Yoon Hyoung-bae (윤형배) with the first pick, and it’s easy to understand why – in 177 2/3 innings, spread out over this three-year high school career, Yoon posted a 1.17 ERA and struck out 197 batters. For my fellow simple-arithmetic-challenged English teachers, that’s over a strikeout per inning. For those of you who are not baseball statistic nerds, that’s good. He throws a 93 mph (150 kph) fastball, and a slider and a changeup. The Dinos chose another pitcher – 23-year-old Lee Seong-min (이성민), out of Yeungnam University in Gyeonsangbuk-do, and owner of a 2.08 collegiate ERA – with their second pick.

But wait, there’s more! The League awarded the Dinos another expansion bonus; while every other KBO team is limited to having two foreign-born players on their roster at any given time, the Dinos will carry three, all pitchers – 25-year-old Adam Wilk, 30-year-old Eric Hacker, and 27-year-old Charlie Shirek. Wilk, the sole lefty of the three, is known for his control of the strike zone and his changeup, and saw MLB action with Detroit in 2011 and 2012. Hacker, whose bread and butter is his control and groundball rate (respectively) broke into the big leagues with Pittsburgh in 2009, and then made it back with Minnesota in 2011 and San Francisco in 2012. Shirek pitched for the Chicago White Sox’s AAA affiliate in 2012; much like his two new non-Korean teammates, Shirek has also displayed excellent control throughout his career, allowing only 1.53 walks per nine innings over the course of 170.1 innings last year.

No statistic is particularly meaningful – not even wins and losses – in the face of the overwhelming force of fun that is the Korean baseball stadium experience, though; baseball games in Korea are big parties, where one’s inability to command the native language of the 15,000 some odd fans surrounding you is hardly a barrier to joining in on the fun. Fans chant throughout the game, and each individual hitter has his own chant set to a tune that plays when he steps up to the plate. Learning the players’ names and pairing them with the words 안타 “ahn tah,” which means “hit,” and “home run,” which means “home run,” will go a long way toward getting your point across, and earning the respect of your fellow fans. Beer and other beverages are sold at the stadium, as are such classic Korean baseball foods as grilled squid with hot sauce and bananas. Fans are allowed to bring food and drinks into the stadium, and there is a Home Plus conveniently located directly across the street from the stadium.

For would-be Dinos fans who are unfamiliar with the peculiarities of professional baseball scheduling: baseball teams typically play one another in three game series – three games in three days – before either traveling to another city or hosting a different team in its home stadium. The schedule below is organized into three-day blocks for this reason. All three games of a series take place at the same stadium in the same city. The Futures League All-Star Game will be played on July 18th, and the big league all-stars will play their game on July 19th.

All weekday games begin at 6:30 pm, all Saturday games begin at 5:00 pm, and all Sunday games start at 2:00 pm.

Ticket prices start at ₩5,000 per adult for general outfield seating, and range up to ₩40,000 per adult for seating directly behind home plate. Group tickets are also available. To order tickets in advance, visit http://www.ncdinos.com/ and click on the “TICKET” link in the top right corner (a strong command of the Korean language is recommended). Tickets are also available at the gate.


View Masan Baseball Stadium 마산 야구장 in a larger map

To get to the stadium – located in central Masan – by bus, click on one of the nearby bus stop icons on this Daum map and check the bus numbers to assess your bus compatibility. To take a taxi to the stadium, ask the driver to take you to the Mah Sahn Yah Goo Jang (마산야구장).

Here is the Dinos’ 2013 schedule.

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