Lacking an operational baseball league at home because of the coronavirus pandemic, some American sports fans have turned to watching Korean baseball instead. The Korean Professional Baseball League – KBO for short – has been broadcasting on ESPN late at night and early in the mornings and has given American fans a different angle on their favorite sport. In South Korea, the game fosters less formulaic players when compared to American baseball and teams also embrace celebrating successful plays, The Atlantic writes.
Yet, TV viewers might not get the whole South Korean baseball experience as games in the country are still carried out without an audience – except for placards showing photos of fans wearing face masks and plush toys posing as audience members, that it. Despite coronavirus cases being largely under control in the country since early April, caution prevails.
Major League Baseball (MLB) is certainly the bigger league with more financial backing, as seen in annual attendance and player salaries. Still, Korean baseball has something American baseball lacks – a young fan base. While U.S. baseball has been dealing with fans who are greying, baseball is more of a young peoples’ sport in Korea. 25 percent of Koreans between the ages of 18 and 29 years old said they were very or somewhat interested in baseball and 46 percent of 40 to 49-year-olds said the same (link in Korean). In the U.S., the range of those interested between the ages of 18 and 49 years did not exceed 28 percent. Overall interest in the sport was also higher in Korea at 34 percent of adults, compared with just 29 percent in the U.S.