Shohei Otani is more popular than Korean players, opening series attracts attention Players are now more Major League-oriented than Japanese players: Tokyo Shimbun TOKYO Web

The US Major League Baseball (MLB) opening series will be held for the first time in Seoul, South Korea on the 20th and 21st. More players from the Korean Professional Baseball (KBO) are competing in the major leagues, and the number of MLB fans in Korea is expanding. Combined with the attention paid to Shohei Otani, expectations are high for the opening of the season. (Seoul/Daisuke Kinoshita)

◆He has a sincere personality and makes a fuss about his marriage announcement.

“You can't go inside until the Soul Series. There are a lot of people who come and wonder, 'Is Shohei Otani coming here?'” When I visited Gocheok Sky Dome, the venue for the opening game, a staff member gave me a wry smile.

MLB Seoul Series advertisement posted in the Hongdae district of Seoul's downtown area (Photo by Daisuke Kinoshita)

In South Korea, the focus is on Kim Ha-seong, who plays for the Padres and will play against the Dodgers this time, but there is even more interest in Ohtani.

Not only is he known for his dual skills in hitting and pitching, but he is also widely known for his stories about how he planned his life during high school, and he is popular for his sincere personality. His sudden announcement of his marriage also caused an uproar in the media and social networking sites (SNS).

◆“Negative articles about Japanese athletes have disappeared”

A sports reporter for a Korean newspaper said, “This is the typical image of an athlete that Koreans like.In the past, there was a tendency to view Japanese athletes as rivals and write articles in a somewhat negative light, but these days, that kind of thing is no longer true.'' It's gone,” he says.

Gocheok Sky Dome, which has a capacity of 20,000 and has been renovated for the MLB Seoul Series, is provided by the city of Seoul.

Gocheok Sky Dome is Korea's only domed stadium. In line with MLB's requests, extensive internal construction work was carried out from December of last year to early this month, including replacing the artificial turf and improving the locker room. Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon, who manages the facility, said enthusiastically, “We are investing a significant amount of personnel to ensure that the matches are held smoothly.''

Baseball commentator Song Jae-woo explained that the opening in Seoul is “an extension of MLB's efforts to increase its international status and interest over the past few years.” He believes that “the fact that Korean star players are expected to continue to advance to the major leagues had a big influence.''

◆Pitcher Sendo Retsu and others are active in Chunichi

In the 1990s, there were many cases of Korean players such as Chunichi Sun Dong-yeol, Lee Jong-beom, and Lee Sang-hoon transferring to Japanese professional baseball and playing active roles. On the other hand, there were also amateur players who went directly to the majors and achieved good results, including Park Chan-ho, who moved to the United States in 1994 and signed with the Dodgers.

In recent years, players from the KBO such as Sei Kanagawa have been active in the majors. Song explains, “Previously, players were more familiar with Japan and weren't sure they could make it in the major leagues.Now that a precedent has been set, more players have decided that they deserve to compete in the major leagues.''

◆720,000 yen for 3 nights and 4 days, over 200x magnification

“Sold out in an instant'' “I wanted to see Otani…'' In January, when tickets for the opening series went on sale online, fans in South Korea lamented on social media.

Additionally, JTB leverages its partnership with MLB to sell tour products that include viewing tickets. Although the offer is expensive at 498,000 yen for 2 nights and 3 days and 728,000 yen for 3 nights and 4 days, the application ratio exceeded 200 times, and a spokesperson said with pride, “We received a great response.''


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