A former Heat staff member has issued some valuable advice for any fans heading to South Korea for the Asia Series starting next week:
"If they give you an orange plastic bag, you put it on your head".
The "Rally Bag" is a late inning tradition seen as a rite of passage for any newcomer to a Giant's game, a practise that would be probably be marked as a safety hazard and banned if it was ever implemented in The West. The tradition is brought about by their naming sponsor Lotte, a supermarket giant that hands out their signature Orange Plastic Bags in the final innings of every home game. Perhaps it was intended for the fans to place their rubbish in, but instead the bag is blown up, tied and the handles are hooked around the ears. Most teams have their Rally Caps, the St Louis Cardinals have a Rally Squirrel, the Heat have a Rally Train, and the Giants have their Rally Bags. In the context of the superstitious baseball fan, it fits in quite well.
Giants fans donning their "Rally Bags"
Currently in a twenty year championship drought, the Lotte Giants fans have every reason to resort to superstitions to get their team over the line. Busan was the obvious choice to host the Asia Series as it the home of the Korea's most passionate and loyal fans. While a rule of thumb would state the most popular teams are also the most successful, the Giants have won only two titles in their thirty year history, their last coming in 1992. Yet the fans still attend games in their droves and are desperate for another title, even if it means resorting to wrapping a choking hazard around their child's head.One such fan of the Lotte Giants is Robert McGill, a writer for Busan Haps, a fortnightly magazine that covers the stories of the people of Busan, news, trends in lifestyle, and Korean society. As part of their coverage of the Asia Series, the "Haps" will be hosting the Heat during their time in Korea, throwing a welcoming party and organising a school visit for Heat players to show some of the local children their talents.
"Passion is likely not a strong enough word to describe the Lotte Giants' fans." Said Robert about Busan's locals. "Even when watching the Giants playing an away game on TV you can hear their fans chanting over the top of the home team's fans. The Giants have broken all the attendance records on their home field and continue to be wildly passionate about their boys win or lose."
While most countries split their love for sports over two or three sporting codes, Korea is clearly a Baseball nation, "Of the professional sports here, baseball wears the crown in the eyes of the fans. Aside of the Football World Cup, baseball is the dominant sport here on the peninsula, while an emerging basketball league and pro soccer try to get a foothold for support."
Sajik Stadium will play host to the Heat in a week's time
While taking down the Giants will be a hard task in itself, the Heat will be facing a wall of sound from the 30,000 Giants fans likely to flock to Busan's picturesque Sajik Stadium. Looking over the city centre and its surrounding mountains, Sajik Stadium is one of the world's greatest baseball grounds. With its sweeping grandstand that stretches around the park to the iconic black infield, Heat players will have plenty to soak in apart from just the atmosphere. One Heat player especially excited to play at Sajik is Virgil Vasquez, the Heat's likely starter in their Game One clash against the Giants on the 8th of November.
"Korea is a special time for us." Said Vasquez after his Spring Training Start in Mandurah." I've never been there so it's going to be an amazing experience and I hear the fans are great. I had a look online and the infields black dirt! It's going to be a whole experience of a different culture and a different way of playing baseball. I'm really looking forward to playing and coming back with some wins."