By Jung Min-ho
With 48,529 tickets sold for the Sunday’s games, the number of visitors to baseball stadiums this year hit 6 million and keeps shooting up with great force to crash last year’s record of 6,810,028.
As of Monday, the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) has welcomed 6,046,019 fans to the arenas this season that started April. This is the second consecutive season the attendance figure has reached 6 million since the inception of professional baseball in Korea. It’s a positive development since the number had stood at over 5 million in the past five years.
Despite this year’s record-high heat wave, the average of 14,430 fans visited stadiums for every game, which is nine percent higher than last year. Regarding the momentum, KBO predicts the number will easily surpass the 7-million-mark.
Indisputably, the Seoul-based club Nexen Heroes have made a fine contribution to the popularity by drawing 524,565 fans to the home stadium in 55 games, showing 38 percent increase in the spectatorship from last year. Meanwhile, traditionally favored teams the Lotte Giants and the Doosan Bears welcomed 1,165,602 and 1,100,384 to their home stadiums, in Busan and Seoul respectively, to keep the baseball fever hotter than this year’s scorching summer heat.
With many other reasons for the better-than-expected popularity of the sport such as celebrities’ appearance for special events and cheer-leaders mirthful dance in the stadium, many point out that the comfortable atmosphere where people scream and laugh easily is one of the major reasons of visiting the place.
“Pushed by my co-workers, I visited the baseball stadium recently for the first time,” a 28-year-old office worker Cho Jung-hyun said. “I really liked the atmosphere there where people mingle with one another cheering for the same team. So, I’m looking forward to visiting the stadium again with my friends sometime soon.”
The standardized eight teams’ capabilities have also kept the season interesting, putting the fans in a position where they cannot predict the winning team with each other’s performance level being near equal to the other. The current leader Samsung Lions’winning rate is only .592, followed closely by the Giants and the SK Wyverns on the second and third respectively with .545 and .538.
“With a competition getting fiercer to stay in the top four positions as the season is heading to the end, more fans are expected to visit the stadiums,” a KBO official said.