Bat Flipping, Korean Baseball Organization

Baseball Is Back (Sort Of) And Bat Flips Are Upon Us

Now that we have KBO baseball and only KBO baseball, the conversation has naturally come around to bat flipping. Koreans are wild for the practice.

This isn’t exactly news. We’ve turned to the Korean Baseball Organization for bat-flip grandeur for years now. Even as Major League Baseball has taken a more lenient—some might even say encouraging—attitude toward the practice, Americans are still light years behind the KBO curve.

In Korea, they’re called ppa-dun, a word combining the first syllables of the words “bat” and “throw.” We know about them to such a degree thanks to Dan Kurtz, whose name has come up frequently in recent days as the American voice of experience on the subject. Korean by birth and adopted to America when he was four months old, Kurtz went to school in Seoul, and started the website MyKBO.net back in 2003. He helped bring Korean bat flipping to the domestic fore in 2013 when he introduced us to a video of Jeon Jun-woo celebrating a blast that was ultimately caught on the warning track. “It was,” reported The New York Times, “Korean bat flipping’s first viral moment. It didn’t take long before there were more.

Kurtz has been repeatedly asked to address the bat-flipping phenomenon over recent days. Here’s what he told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

“Flipping your bat on a home run (or even a long fly ball) won’t get you beaned the next time up. But the benches will empty if you are a younger pitcher who unintentionally hits a veteran batter with a pitch and don’t immediately take off your hat and bow to show remorse.”

Guys flip ‘em for homers. They flip ‘em for flyball outs. They flip ‘em for singles and sometimes even grounders to short. Pitcher Josh Lindblom, who spent five seasons in the big leagues and now plays in Korea, described his introduction to the practice for ESPN.com. “I saw somebody do it and I was like: ‘What was that?’ Somebody told us it might happen. ‘Don’t freak out. Don’t get mad. It’s just what they do.’ ”

Lindblom also said: “I don’t even notice it anymore. It happens so much, I’m like, whatever.”

That same story explained some of the unwritten rules in Korea:

Most of [them] reflect the values of Korean society. … Takeout slides, recently banned in MLB, never existed here. Bench-clearing brawls are rare. Jee-ho Yoo, a sports writer with Yonhap News, says there are only a few dozen competitive high school baseball teams in Seoul, so “pretty much everyone knows everyone” in the KBO. “They don’t want to hurt each other,” he says. Yoo remembers an incident a few years ago when a foreign player on the Lotte Giants tore down the third-base line and slammed into the catcher. Fans were appalled.

Some of the country’s other unwritten rules have been covered in this very space right here.

It’s a different brand of baseball, but anybody watching games into the wee hours in the U.S. can attest that it can be wildly entertaining. Until Major League Baseball returns, this is the product we get to enjoy, bat flips and all.

Korean Baseball Organization

The Unwritten Rules, Written Down … in Korean

KBOSo my first unwritten rules post of the young season comes out of Korea. Of course it does.

This is what happens when a professional baseball league tries to eliminate the unwritten rules by, you know, writing them down and stuff.

If one is to believe Kim Euong-yong, manager of the Hanwha Eagles of the Korean Baseball Organization, his players recently refused to steal bases while holding a six-run lead—not because it was unseemly, but because their players association had instructed them against it.

The directive seems to have banned such thefts when a team is up by at least six runs, in the sixth inning or later.

This, of course, is ludicrous, and the Korea Professional Baseball Players Association denied it outright. They even called it “ludicrous” themselves (a clear triumph of translation).

Moral imperatives lose some heft when turned into actual legislation. Doing something because it’s the right thing to do—or even after a nudge from a veteran teammate—is different than being ordered to do it from a bureaucrat. A mom can tell her kid to play nice, but when she starts giving him step by step directions, at some point it starts to look less like play and more like following a script.

And that doesn’t even account for the subtleties of game play—things like the offensive potential of one’s opponent, and one’s own ability to hold a lead through the late innings of a game—that means a seven-run lead might not be enough one day, while a five-run lead the next could be just fine.

(Even if the KPBPA is telling the truth about not laying down such law, they did mention that, oh, by the way, their members have agreed cut down on excessive celebrations. Their toe is clearly in the water …)

In related news, KBO alum Ryu Hyun-jin gets the start for the Dodgers tonight in their home opener.