Born again, there's new grass on the field
They're playing major league baseball again in the United States. I think they're starting with "exhibition" games, which don't count in the race for the World Series, but really the whole season probably isn't going to count, in many people's minds, when it's all said and done.
Yesterday I had the Mets vs. the Yankees on the iPad in the background of some things I was doing. It was soothing, as I expected. But strange, of course – much like the Korean League games I've been watching in the middle of the night on and off for a few months now.
As in Korea, there were no fans in the stands at, um, whatever they call what used to be Shea Stadium nowadays. But as in some Korean ballparks, there were cardboard cutouts of fans in some of the seats that you see on camera a lot – especially behind home plate.
The players are not required to wear face masks in either country. But yesterday one American guy who voluntarily wears his mask throughout the game hit a home run! Good for him. And I saw no spitting, which is an unheard-of abstinence in American baseball. No slimy sunflower seed shells flying through the air, either.
In another parallel to the Korean games, the ESPN announcers are calling the action from their homes, watching the proceedings on the screen, just as the rest of us viewers are doing. And at least for now, they are not paying that much attention to the action, frankly. The broadcasters are shown on a portion of the screen pretty much the whole game, and they're chatting away, conducting interviews and b.s.'ing. Maybe that will change when the 60-game "regular" season starts, but at the moment it closely resembles the Korean game broadcasts in that respect.
One funny thing was that for yesterday's games, the announcers were wearing neckties. When these same guys call the Korean games at 3 in the morning, they are in T-shirts and polos. (Of course, who knows what any of them are ever wearing from the waist down. Khakis?)
Some of the American bench players were sitting up in the stands. That doesn't happen in Seoul. And unlike the Koreans, the major leaguers aren't touching each other at all, it seems, except to bump shoes. No high-fives are allowed. I think they were doing jazz hands at one point, which was awkward.
Other differences from the Korean games: They had microphones right down around the field, and so you could hear the umpire's cry quite clearly. That might be an issue when things heat up and the Americans, unlike the Koreans, start arguing about the rulings. Every once in a while, when somebody got a hit, they would play cheering crowd noise through the p.a. system at the stadium, which seemed awfully weak.
Yesterday I really noticed the difference between the American players and the Korean players. The Americans are faster, stronger, better at baseball in every respect. But they all seemed like they were on steroids – huge, dangerous garbage trucks hurtling around at 97 miles an hour. There's a human scale to the Korean game that was definitely lacking in New York.
Unlike other sports, which are being conducted in "bubbles," the baseball teams (other than the one in Toronto) are traveling and playing in their regular parks. With all that travel, it seems inevitable that there will be Covid outbreaks in the American leagues. The tight, abbreviated schedule leaves little room for error, and so the jury's still out on whether this short season will make it all the way through to its planned conclusion. But it could be fun while it lasts.
For the record, the Yankees won, 9 to 3.