Tomorrow is opening day. Sadly, it is not opening day for the MLB, but the KBO- The Korea Baseball Organization. ESPN is reportedly close to a deal to broadcast games in the U.S. ESPN also has a season preview available here that gives a good preview of things. The folks over at Pinstripe Alley also did a good breakdown with some of the history for each team.
Tigers fans itchin' for some baseball may be curious about the league, but with no specific team to follow, may be a bit lost. As a current resident of South Korea, I offer four options that could appeal to Tigers fans and the reason to support them.
1. The Kia Tigers. Obviously this makes the most sense because of their name. They have a good history and a nice new stadium. The city of Gwangju also has some remarkable history, most notably the Gwangju Uprising in 1980. There's just one catch- The uniforms and colors. Not really reminiscent of our beloved Detroit Tigers. I guess the big question is what is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Tigers baseball?
2. The Samsung Lions. With that Lions name and their blue colors, it's easy to see Detroit fans getting behind the Samsung Lions. The team also play in one of the nice new KBO stadiums that have been recently built. It's also a pitcher's park, much like CoPa. This team also has a recent history of success along a similar time frame to our Detroit Tigers and is looking to get back to the top after a tumble downwards.
3. The Lotte Giants. If you're looking for a geographic comparison, the Lotte Giants would be the most comparable to the Detroit Tigers (Disclaimer: I am a Giants fan as they were the local team in the area I initially moved to), Strangely, this isn't because of the city of Busan where they are based, but the fact that they play a small number of games in the neighboring city of Ulsan, the "Motor City" of Korea, where most of Korea's car factories are located. The Giants also have the most rabid fan base in the league and its stadium is considered 'The Mecca of Korean Baseball'. Unfortunately, the Giants have driven their fans crazy for close to 30 years in terms of futility and they finished dead last despite spending the most amount of money and have a history of incompetent management and ownership. (EDIT- The Giants also have former Tiger Dixon Machado- Thank you Combo Plan Man. I think I might have posted about this way back and it just totally slipped my mind)
4. The Hanhwa Eagles. If you're looking for former Tigers then the Hanhwa Eagles are your team with not one, but TWO former Detroit Tigers in Warwick Saupold and Chad Bell. Neither of them made much of an impression in Detroit but they did manage to give credible performances in the KBO. Also, the Eagles away uniforms are about as close as you're going to get to a Detroit Tigers uniform in this league. They play in a pitcher's park (in KBO terms) and it's also one of the oldest and smallest stadiums in the league. The team also has a rather woeful history having won the Korean Series only once.
5. Other options. There are also the SK Wyverns, Kiwoom Heroes, Doosan Bears, LG Twins, KT Wiz, and NC DInos. None of them really have much of a connection to the Detroit Tigers. I didn't notice any players that were former Tigers on any of their rosters (though i wasn't completely thorough). However if I overlooked something and someone out there is aware of it, please mention it below and that can be another viable option.
So there you have it. Which team do you think matchs up best for us Detroit Tigers fans? Obviously I'm personally biased to the Lotte Giants, but I can see a strong case for any of the other three teams. Unfortunately, according to the ESPN Power Rankings, the four best choices are projected to finish at the bottom, so if you're tired of losing ways, maybe you'll want to go with one of the contenders. The biggest shame? It's doubtful fans will be in the stands so you won't get to see the carnival-like atmosphere that exists at Korean baseball games. Anyways, here's hoping to good health both in Korea and back home and that our Detroit Tigers Opening Day is out there sometime in 2020.