Could there be a MLB-KBO All-Star game?

Jun 4, 2017; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Brewers left fielder Eric Thames (7) hits a solo home run in the first inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Miller Park. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 4, 2017; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Brewers left fielder Eric Thames (7) hits a solo home run in the first inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Miller Park. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports /

Major League Baseball and the Korean Baseball Organization have tentatively agreed to an exhibition game featuring All-Stars from each league, per Sports Seoul. After MLB exhibitions in Japan, Australia, Mexico, and Cuba over the past few years, perhaps this development is no surprise.

If the agreement is finalized, a best-on-best matchup between KBO and MLB stars will take place on Nov. 11 in Seoul, South Korea. The game will be played in a 2017 World Baseball Classic venue, the Gocheok Sky Dome, potentially kicking off an MLB “Asian tour” that also passes through Taiwan.

There are a few storylines to look out for going into the game: How will MLB players match up against the different style of play across the Pacific? Will a Korean star parlay his exposure into a major-league opportunity? How will former big-league players perform for the KBO All-Stars? Will six-year KBO veteran Dustin Nippert out himself as the next Eric Thames?

OK, so in truth, there isn’t too much to sell on the field here. Who even knows if any MLB stars will make the trip to Seoul, and there isn’t a transcendent prospect to look out for on the KBO team—if the game happens at all.

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In fact, considering South Korea made a run to the World Baseball Classic final in 2009, professional baseball from the East Asian peninsula has yielded fewer major-league stars than you would expect. Though we’ve been teased with plenty of talent, Texas right-fielder Shin-Soo Choo and former All-Star pitcher Chan-Ho Park are arguably the only two players who have managed to provide long-term value upon making the jump from the KBO.

But this actually makes sense: Despite this year’s anomaly of Eric Thames, the level of play in Korean baseball is inferior to Japan’s NPB, which is often considered around Triple-A. So when it comes to strength, a roster (hopefully) featuring the likes of Mike Trout and Buster Posey will effectively take on a group of Double-A prospects in an “All-Star” game come November.

Honestly, though, who cares about the game? The event is more about spectacle than competitiveness, and the KBO has the former in spades. Even first pitches are a spectacle. Beyond those, there are more cultural quirks that could make an MLB-KBO All-Star Game worth watching.

Let’s start with the atmosphere that Korean baseball fans bring on game day:

Say what you want about the quality of play—few big-league ballparks ever look or sound like that. The Sky Dome may not reach that intensity in an exhibition, but you can still expect a similar cauldron of noise for the first major-league pitch thrown in South Korea since 1958.

Choo, St. Louis closer Seung-hwan Oh, and other current Korean big leaguers will also undoubtedly feature—health and postseason workload permitting—adding more reasons for the spectators to cheer. We might even see one of them receive respectful bows from KBO players, as Park experienced upon his return to Korea.

But most importantly, we will get to see bat flips. Lots of them. The KBO is almost exclusively famous for its bat-flipping in the United States, and there’s a reason for that. At this point, it’s nearly a cultural reflex—ingrained so deep into Korean ballplayers they sometimes forget they’re doing it.

I mean, check out this guy, who flips his bat to the moon hitting a foul ball while his team is down 10-3. There are even montages on YouTube, where you can marvel at a collection of truly absurd tosses while listening to terrible music:

Hopefully cultural differences don’t turn the exhibition into a game of bean-ball, but it’ll be interesting to see how Stephen Strasburg reacts to getting a bat flipped in his face on a fly-ball out to centerfield.

It’s too bad MLB won’t make a weekend out of it and organize a bunt derby; I also legitimately wouldn’t mind if the Perfect Pitcher competition were implemented in our All-Star festivities stateside. For now, however, a one-off game will have to do. Hopefully there will be another chance down the line to mix the big leagues with the bizarre world of Korean baseball.

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Of course, to the cynics out there: There’s no doubt the exhibition (and subsequent Asian tour) is a marketing ploy. Major League Baseball, like all other major sports leagues today, hopes to stretch its brand across the world, and this will be another good test of its global appeal. The league will say the event is for the fans, when it’s really for the dollars. But hey—it’s baseball in November. Who are we to complain?