With the MLB season delayed due to the global coronavirus pandemic, baseball fans have turned to South Korea. The country’s professional league has been broadcasting live games since May 5, and ESPN is airing them.
Banners of face mask-wearing fans fill the stands as teams like the SK Wyverns and Samsung Dinos play intrasquad games. It’s not exactly MLB, but for a nation starved for sports, it’ll do.
The Walt Disney-owned sports-media giant ESPN finally found a way to bring live sports back to the airwaves this week. The network struck a deal with the KBO League to broadcast six live English-language games from South Korea’s professional baseball league each week during the 2020 season. The first game aired Tuesday morning, with Karl Ravech calling the Samsung Lions-NC Dinos matchup.
The telecast was delayed for rain, but the action got underway shortly thereafter. Interestingly, the first KBO home run of the game came from left fielder Na Sung-bum of the NC Dinos. The ball sailed deep into the outfield, but no one in the stadium seemed to react.
Fans can watch the games via the WatchESPN app, which requires a cable log-in to access, or through a streaming service that carries ESPN (such as Sling TV, AT&T TV NOW, YouTube TV, and Hulu + Live TV). The league’s rules are similar to MLB’s, so American fans shouldn’t have trouble following along.
While ESPN has been scrambling to fill its live sports schedule during the coronavirus pandemic, with replays of classic games and Michael Jordan documentaries, it has finally found a savior: KBO baseball. The season, delayed since March 28, kicked off Tuesday, and ESPN will air six games a week.
KBO League (Korean: ) was founded in 1982 with six franchises, and it is currently the most popular professional baseball league in South Korea. Its most successful team is the KIA Tigers, which have won 11 championships over the past few years.
The league has also expanded over the years, including the addition of the KT Wiz in 2015 and the increase in regular-season games from 128 to 144. It has also introduced new ballparks to accommodate more fans, including the Gwangju-Kia Champions Field, Gocheok Sky Dome, and Daegu Samsung Lions Park. In the 1980s, the Haitai Tigers dominated, winning five Korean Series titles. The Tigers were led by pitcher Sun Dong-yol and infielders Kim Seong-han and Han Dae-hwa.
The global outbreak of the novel coronavirus has deprived baseball fans of their annual ritual, but if you live in South Korea or have access to a VPN, you can still watch KBO games. Most of the league’s games are broadcast on portal sites and mobile streaming apps. These sites are operated by the country’s major internet service providers, such as Naver and Daum.
Some KBO teams have streamed intrasquad games on their own YouTube channels or portal sites. For instance, the Doosan Bears streamed a game last Saturday on their YouTube channel in partnership with local new media company Spocado. The broadcast featured a play-by-play announcer and color analyst in the booth and instant replays.
You can also stream a Korean baseball game on your smartphone or tablet by downloading the Naver media player app and selecting the option for “KBO.” Odds Portal lists all upcoming matches on its dedicated KBO page. You can click on each match to get detailed betting odds information and see which bookmakers offer the best odds on each game.
As the world continues to wait for its professional sports leagues to resume normal operations during the coronavirus pandemic, South Korea’s KBO league has gotten under way with live games. The NC Dinos lead the way with a fast start, but the Doosan Bears, Kiwoom Heroes and LG Twins aren’t far behind.
The games are being played without fans in attendance, and strict health regulations are in place. Players are tested before every game and (along with team personnel) must wear masks. High fives and spitting are banned, and stadiums have been closed if a player shows signs of the virus.
American fans can catch all the action live on ESPN’s app, and on subscription streaming services that include ESPN like fuboTV. The service offers a free trial and is available on Verizon Fios, AT&T U-verse, Comcast Xfinity, Spectrum/Charter, Optimum/Altice, Dish, Cox, and DIRECTV. It also features a cloud DVR to record the games and watch them later. 한국야구실시간