Live sports are back! America’s pastime has been flourishing in South Korea, and thanks in part to the nation’s exemplary coronavirus response, the KBO League is underway. While South Korea’s brand of baseball happens in time zones that appeal more to American night owls than prime-time viewers, ESPN and ESPN2 are adding afternoon and evening rebroadcast games in addition to live games with 1am, 4am, and 5:30am ET start times.
Here’s an introduction to how South Korea does baseball (and bat flips!) and how it can fill that sports-sized hole in your heart.
How to Stream ESPN2
What is the KBO League?
South Korea’s best baseball league started in 1982 with six franchises—five of which remain in the league. (Pour one out for the Hyundai Unicorns, who folded in 2008.) The league has since expanded out to 10 teams, where it’s been since 2015 with the arrival of the KT Wiz. Most of the teams are named after companies rather than cities, and most are based in major population centers within the Asian nation. Seoul, the capital, has three teams. They play 144 games in a season, putting them on the marathon pace that Major League Baseball teams have in a normal season.
One of the sport’s best features is the groups of cheerleading fans who lead home stadiums in song, making the sport feel more like big-time soccer than American soccer. But the season’s starting without fans in the stands.
Korean baseball also fully embraces something that its American cousin’s only flirted with: Bat flips. This excellent tweet thread from ESPN.com writer Jeff Passan puts together a collection of bat flip GIFs, documenting displays that would certainly start big league brawls in the States.
Korean baseball live stream: How to watch the KBO League live
ESPN negotiated with the KBO League to air six games weekly, with most of them airing live on ESPN2 with start times ranging from 1am ET to 5:30am ET. The network’s also rebroadcasting games in the afternoon and evening to let those who aren’t noctural get some baseball watching in.
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Which Korean baseball teams should I know?
The 11-time champion Kia Tigers are considered the “Yankees” of the KBO League, though like with the Yankees, they’ve found trophies hard to come by lately. They did, to their credit, win in 2017, but it’s their first win since 2009. (But they’ve also never lost a championship series they’ve played in.) The current champions, the Doosan Bears, hail from Seoul, and the previous year’s winners, the SK Wyverns, are from Incheon. Michiganders might find the Samsung Lions to their liking, with a silver-and-blue color scheme you might already associate with the big cat mascot.
KBO League teams (with home cities)
- Doosan Bears (Seoul)
- Hanwha Eagles (Daejeon)
- Kia Tigers (Gwangju)
- Kiwoom Heroes (Seoul)
- KT Wiz (Suwon)
- LG Twins (Seoul)
- Lotte Giants (Busan)
- NC Dinos (Changwon)
- Samsung Lions (Daegu)
- SK Wyverns (Incheon)
Korean Series Champions
Here are the recent winners of the Korean Series, the KBO League’s answer to the World Series.
- 2019: Doosan Bears
- 2018: SK Wyverns
- 2017: Kia Tigers
- 2016: Doosan Bears
- 2015: Doosan Bears
- 2014: Samsung Lions
- 2013: Samsung Lions
- 2012: Samsung Lions
- 2011: Samsung Lions
- 2010: SK Wyverns
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