A 27-year-old American man residing in Seoul, Korea gets ready for Saturday, waking up at 6:00 a.m. After a long week of working hard, ten hours a day, there is still room for something else in his life in Korea, baseball.
While there have been a number of baseball leagues in Korea run by Korean nationals, this American, named Ryan Burda, founded a baseball league in March this year mainly for expats in Korea. After five months, the Seoul Baseball League (SBL) has become the largest baseball league for foreign nationals in Korea, with around 100 players.
The league currently consists of four teams including Dillinger’s, Sam Ryan’s, Roofers, and Beer O’Clock, each having players of various nationalities including Canadian, American, and Korean. Sponsored by bars and restaurants in Korea, these teams play every Saturday in Gwacheon.
“I just wanted to enjoy my life in Korea better and help expats feel as though they’re back home,” Burda said. “When I came here in 2010, there weren’t any baseball leagues that foreign nationals could easily participate in, yet a lot of them wanted to play baseball together.” Although it’s an amateur league, it has a professional umpire and all the required equipment. Co-founder Joey Buchannan said, “The hardest part of setting up the league was organizing startups such as finding a field to play and buying baseball gear.”
Mainly because of the language barrier and lack of information, finding a field is a big issue for the league. “I’ve heard that it’s hard to secure a place to play even for Koreans,” Buchannan said. “Despite the difficulties we have, the league is rapidly growing and more expats are spending their leisure time playing baseball. We love it.”
A participation fee of 80,000 won covers uniform, equipment, and the joy of playing the game. For more information about the league, please contact http://www.facebook.com/groups/141000775973050 or email Seoul_Baseball_League@yahoo.com.
One of the most popular Korean sports, soccer, also has an expat soccer league, Sunday Seoul Football League (SSFL) which was founded in 2002. Founder Daniel Behrendt simply wanted to play soccer competitively.
“Regardless of nationality, age, or gender, we welcome everyone to join the league to play soccer together,” said Behrendt. “Thanks to the league, games are always more competitive, and interesting.” They currently have more than 20 teams formed from various cities in Korea including Seoul, Cheongju, and Incheon. Most of them are expats and around 20% are Korean nationals who enjoy playing soccer and learning about different cultures.
The secretary of the league, Kevin Landry, said, “As we play a little more aggressively than Koreans, Korean nationals are surprised when they play for the first time with us.
“However, as they keep playing together and hanging out with teammates, they learn about different cultures, games, and languages, which is one of the reasons why SSFL exists.”
However, because most of them are not permanent citizens in Korea, there are some difficulties operating the league. “Because most players are either English teachers or students, they go home right when we start getting close and getting to know each other better,” Landry said. “However, it’s still meaningful to offer expats opportunities to play sports together in Korea.” To learn more about the league, please visit www.ssflkorea.com.
If you’re into indoor basketball or volleyball, recROK, which is a compound word of recreation and Republic of Korea, is the right answer.
Founded last year by English teacher Gina Phillips, the league luckily has a permanent venue to play indoor sports. She said, “Thanks to my school allowing me to use the gymnasium in the afternoon, a lot of expats are able to play sports together regardless of the weather.”
Around 15% of the players in recRok are Korean nationals, while most of them are expats who want to enjoy their weekends playing basketball or volleyball rather than drinking in a bar.
“I would say the games in our league are more of a physical Western style,” she said. “More Koreans are welcome to play games with expats and learn about each other’s culture and different style of playing sports.”
The league is recruiting new players until September 12 for this coming fall season. For more information, please visit http://www.facebook.com/recROK.
By Jessica Seoyoung Choi
Korea.net Staff Writer