By Yoo Jee-ho
SEOUL, May 30 (Yonhap) — While enjoying a better-than-expected start to the 2023 Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) season, the Lotte Giants have also been enjoying success at the ticket office — and not just at their home in Busan, either.
The Giants fans either travel well, or it could be that Busan transplants all over the country are finally coming out of their closets to cheer on the Giants.
Whatever the case may be, Giants manager Larry Sutton is thankful for the support his team has been receiving on the road.
“They’re like the 29th man on our roster,” Sutton said Tuesday in a media scrum before taking on the home team LG Twins at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul. The Giants are coming into the series in third place at 26-16, two games behind the league-best Twins (30-16-1).
“Especially when we go on the road, the players are able to draw from the energy that the fans are giving us,” Sutton added.
The Giants faced the Kiwoom Heroes at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul over the weekend. The final two games of the three-game series were played before a sellout crowd of 16,000 — more than half of them Giants fans.
For this series at the 23,750-seat Jamsil, the Giants and the Twins — two of the most popular teams with loyal and passionate fan bases — are expected to draw around 20,000 fans. That’s almost unheard of for midweek games at the end of May.
Sutton thinks having the fan support all over the country has some tangible effects on the players’ performances.
“They’re able to draw some motivation to keep fighting hard and fighting for the whole game,” the manager said. “It’s incredible that we’re able to have consistency of playing as a team, especially in front of our fans. The energy that they bring is just electric.”
There hasn’t been much to get excited about for the Giants in recent years. Their most recent postseason appearance came in 2017, and that was their first trip to the playoffs in five years. The Giants’ last championship season came in 1992.
The Giants were in first place at the end of April at 14-8. They have been mocked for often starting out hot to tease their aggrieved fans and then cooling off in May.
It has been a different story this month, though. They have gone 12-8 in May, the third-best record in the KBO this month.