Asia Minute: South Korea and Taiwan Try Pro Baseball in the Pandemic

May 6, 2020

Professional sports are on hold all over the world during the coronavirus pandemic. But that is starting to change—with some baseball games in Asia. And now they’re on the air in the United States.

When people are dying every day of COVID-19, it may seem insensitive to talk about baseball. But for some people looking for distractions from the pandemic, the lure of professional sports can be powerful.

Even if it’s baseball from South Korea.

ESPN is betting on that — the network started showing live games with the opening of the Korean Baseball Organization’s shortened season this week.

There’s a bit of an education curve for American fans who may not know their Doosan Bears from their Kiwoom Heroes.

For starters, as it is in Japan and Taiwan, most teams are named after their corporate sponsors. For example, Doosan is a conglomerate that started out in construction — Kiwoom Securities is in financial services.

The league’s made up of ten franchises — some of the more familiar corporate names to American ears might include the Samsung Lions and the Kia Tigers, or the LG Twins and the Hyundai Unicorns.

There are no fans in the stands, but there are cheerleaders.

It’s a similar approach in Taiwan, where the Chinese Professional Baseball League started playing games in empty stadiums last month.

On Tuesday, Taiwan’s league announced it’s getting ready to open the attendance gates, with a strict limit of a thousand fans at a time.