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KBO manager rejoices over return of fans to stadium

All News 16:53 October 19, 2021

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, Oct. 19 (Yonhap) -- When the LG Twins host the Kiwoom Heroes at Jamsil Baseball Stadium to open a three-game series Tuesday evening, they will do so in front of hundreds, if not thousands, of fans -- something they haven't been able to do for three months.

The Twins and the Heroes are among five Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) clubs based in the greater Seoul area that have been playing home game at empty stadiums since the onset of the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in July. The three other clubs are: the Doosan Bears, who share Jamsil with the Twins, the SSG Landers in Incheon, 40 kilometers west of the capital, and KT Wiz in Suwon, 45 kilometers south of Seoul.

In this file photo from Oct. 6, 2021, LG Twins manager Ryu Ji-hyun (R) bumps fists with outfielder Kim Hyun-soo after the Twins' 4-1 victory over the SSG Landers in a Korea Baseball Organization regular season game at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul. (Yonhap)

While teams located elsewhere have been allowed to admit fans, restrictions have been much tougher in the capital region, with spectators banned at all sporting events.

Those protocols have finally been eased. The government announced last Friday fully-vaccinated people will be able to attend sports games beginning this week: at 30 percent capacity at outdoor venues and 20 percent capacity at indoor facilities.

The Twins had the honor of being the first KBO team in the greater Seoul area to swing open their stadium gates. At 30 percent capacity, Jamsil can hold up to about 7,200 fans.

In his pregame press conference, Twins manager Ryu Ji-hyun said the reopening couldn't have come at a better time for his club.

"We have the most games left this season (with 12), and around this time of year, the guys are banged up and running on fumes," Ryu said. "But with fans back at the ballpark, hopefully their energy will be the fuel for our team. It'll be great to see them, and our players should be able to find that extra gear."

The Twins have long been one of the top draws in the KBO. In 2019, the most recent pre-pandemic season, they were the only KBO club to draw over a million fans at home.

In this file photo from Sept. 10, 2021, a mascot for the LG Twins takes a breather during a Korea Baseball Organization regular season game between the Twins and the Hanwha Eagles at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul. (Yonhap)

Including the Twins, all five clubs in the greater Seoul area are in the thick of a tight postseason race.

The Wiz are leading the league at 73-53-8 (wins-losses-ties) but are clinging to a 1.5-game lead over the Samsung Lions. The Twins sit 2.5 games out of first place and have a six-game cushion over the fourth-place Bears.

The Bears, the Landers and the Heroes are lined up 4-5-6, and the three are separated by just two games.

The top five regular season teams will reach the postseason. The regular season champions will earn a bye to the Korean Series. The fourth- and fifth-ranked teams will meet in the wild card game, with the winner moving on to face the No. 3 team in the first round. The second-ranked team from the regular season will be waiting in the second round.

The regular season is scheduled to wrap up on Oct. 30, and the postseason will begin on Nov. 1.

A Korea Baseball Organization regular season game between the Doosan Bears and the Kia Tigers is being played at an empty Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul on Oct. 17, 2021. (Yonhap)

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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