The Korea Baseball Organization, the highest level of baseball in South Korea and one of the first major professional sports leagues to return to action during the Covid pandemic, completed its season, its post season and the Korean Series with the NC Dinos taking the Korean Series championship trophy and a sword.
The Dinos, who charged out of the gate and sat atop the league for most of the season, defeated the defending Korean Series champs, Doosan Bears, in six games to claim their first KBO championship.
To sum up the season that it was - opening amid the pandemic, having games canceled along the way, playing with fans and without, AND at half-filled, partially-filled ballparks, playing with masks - Yoo Jee-ho, sports writer at Yonhap News Agency is live here with me in the studio.
Jeeho, welcome back to News In-depth.
What a season, Jeeho. So, having covered yet another KBO season, but one truly unprecedented in every aspect, I'm sure. Earlier in the year, albeit at a later date, the KBO forged ahead with the season despite the pandemic. Silence filled the empty ballparks which used to be full of fans and their cheers. The players sometimes wore masks on the field. And sports leagues around the globe watched South Korea as a test case as seasons in almost all sports postponed indefinitely. Looking back, what were your thoughts back in May when the KBO finally opened its season after having been postponed once? What do you remember writing?
And all throughout the season, much global attention was on the KBO. Of course, ESPN began carrying KBO games reflecting American baseball fans' thirst for real games when MLB had come to a halt and a growing fan base of KBO there. What was your experience like, as a sports writer, covering the league this season? I'm sure it was no ordinary season for you, either.
What was your impression covering, reporting, interviewing the players, coaches, managers and dealing with the front office this season? Did you feel that the KBO as well as the teams really have the Covid situation under control?
COVID has had various effects on sports this year - some major ones include the absence of fans and I suppose the fear of contracting the virus.
How have these factors impacted the players, commentators and reporters like yourself, and the KBO league overall?
Once more fans in the U.S. began to watch more KBO may that be on Youtube, on social media, or ESPN, unique features of South Korean baseball began to make headlines. That includes batflips.
It's where sluggers wallop balls and then flip their bats with abandon, sending them spiraling through the air. Now, you don't even have to be in the MLB or follow MLB. Even from your average middle school PE class, you learn that bat flips symbolize disrespect. But, in South Korea, they are art, apparently. And, baseball fans in the U.S. were mesmerized by it. Tell us about that.
Now, having gone through its ups and downs, the KBO concluded one tumultuous season last week with the NC Dinos winning their first ever Korean Series title over the Doosan Bears.
Every team played the full 144 games of the regular season, and other than shortening the opening round from best-of-5 to best-of-3, a complete postseason.
There is no question about the legitimacy of their victory.
How did the NC Dinos perform this season and how meaningful is this victory also taking into account that the victory comes in a pandemic season?
What's grabbed a lot of attention was how the NC Dinos celebrated their victory with a sword.
Of course there was a trophy as well, but this sword was a real-life replica of an "Execution Sword", a highly coveted item from NC's signature online game "Lineage."
Was this not the first? I had never seen a sword being presented at the Korean Series prior to this.
What's the story behind this?
It has been a financially difficult year for the world and KBO was no exception.
How much of an impact did the absence of fans, and the consequential lack of merchandise sales, have on the league?
In closing off the season, KBO announced that general managers from its 10 clubs agreed to add the "force majeure" clause into player contracts.
Under this clause, teams will be able to cut wages without liability, if events beyond their control disrupt the season.
This clause was clearly brought on due to COVID effects
What does this mean for the players?
This year's KBO MVP came out of the KT Wiz. Their star outfielder Rojas Jr. is the sixth foreign player to take home KBO's top individual award.
He's also been nominated for the Golden Glove in the outfield category, which he earned last year as well.
Can you tell us a little bit about this player and what we can expect to see in the future?
On the note of individual players, also worth mentioning are Kiwoom Heroes' Kim Ha-seong and NC Dinos' Na Sung-bum.
Both are in line to be posted by MLB. How does the posting system work, and when can we expect to know the result of these players' endeavor towards achieving their dreams?
KBO drew global attention at the beginning of its season this year because it was the first of any sporting event to go ahead amidst the pandemic. With no baseball for ESPN, a deal was drawn out for MLB fans to enjoy KBO baseball. How do you think the pandemic played a role in shaping the future of KBO? Do you think the 2020 season has re-shaped KBO and how do you think the league will evolve over the years?
Yoo Jee-ho, sports writer at Yonhap News Agency, brilliant job. Thanks so much for being with us this evening. We appreciate it.