Main League Baseball and its gamers are nonetheless negotiating the phrases of a possible begin to the 2020 season that possible will not occur till early-July.Within the meantime, with Covid-19 fears shutting down numerous companies and dwell occasions world wide, baseball-deprived followers have seemed to South Korea, the place that nation’s skilled baseball league, the Korean Baseball Group (KBO), has been taking part in dwell video games — with out followers within the stands, as a consequence of restrictions from the worldwide coronavirus pandemic — since Might 5.And to cater to the tens of millions of followers who’re hungry for baseball’s stateside return, ESPN even started airing dwell KBO video games on cable earlier this month. (That got here after the success of ESPN’s dwell airing of the NFL Draft in April, which drew greater than 15 million viewers.)Whereas ESPN has not but launched any rankings or viewership numbers for these broadcasts, its airing of KBO video games has been met with enthusiasm on social media by followers and MLB stars alike.Los Angeles Dodgers star outfielder Mookie Betts wrote on Twitter after ESPN’s KBO announcement: “Welcome again, KBO. We’re all watching!””I believe it is superior that KBO video games are being broadcast on ESPN,” Drew Rucinski, a pitcher for the KBO’s NC Dinos, who beforehand pitched within the MLB, together with for the Miami Marlins in 2017, tells CNBC Make It. “It is an excellent alternative to showcase the expertise and degree of gameplay that we’ve got right here in KBO on a world scale.”Mike Wright, one other former MLB pitcher who now performs with Rucinski on the NC Dinos, agreed: “My household loves being able to look at me from 1000’s of miles away! If the household is joyful, I am joyful!” he says.The right way to watchESPN is at present airing six dwell KBO video games per week, with one recreation airing on both ESPN or ESPN2 every day from Tuesday by way of Sunday. Nevertheless, American baseball followers who wish to catch dwell baseball motion might need to change their sleeping schedules to take action, because the dwell video games usually air between 1 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. ET. However sleep-deprived followers can nonetheless catch a day re-airing of these video games on most days.For example, on Tuesday, Might 26, ESPN will air the sport between the KBO’s Samsung Lions and the Lotte Giants at 5:30 a.m. ET. Nevertheless, that recreation might be re-aired at 2 p.m. ET later that very same day. (This is a have a look at ESPN’s schedule of KBO video games for the upcoming week.)Followers also can stream the video games anytime on the ESPN App (however, you’ve got to have the ability to present log-in particulars to your cable subscription for entry). Twine-cutters attempting to look at KBO video games must look to live-TV streaming providers that embrace ESPN, corresponding to Sling TV, YouTube TV and Hulu with Reside TV.Are the foundations of the sport totally different?So far as the day-to-day recreation play goes, the KBO’s guidelines are basically the identical because the MLB, so American followers shouldn’t have any bother following alongside.One distinction is that each KBO staff employs the “Common Designated Hitter” rule, the place one participant in every staff’s lineup hits rather than the staff’s pitcher and doesn’t play a place within the subject. Within the MLB, solely American League groups have a delegated hitter, whereas Nationwide League groups must let their pitchers bat.The KBO’s common season additionally lasts simply 144 video games, in comparison with the MLB’s 162-game schedule. And within the KBO, video games which might be nonetheless tied after 9 innings will go not more than three extra-innings and might even finish in a tie after these 12 innings are performed. Within the MLB, video games which might be tied after 9 innings can go on indefinitely till one staff wins.What number of groups are within the KBO?One other noticeable distinction between the KBO and the MLB is that the Korean league solely has 10 skilled groups complete (the MLB has 30 groups). As such, the league’s playoffs are additionally shorter than the MLB’s, with 5 KBO groups making the postseason, whereas 10 MLB groups make the playoffs every season.Of the KBO’s 10 groups, 5 of them have been round because the league was based in 1982: the Doosan Bears, the Kia Tigers, the LG Twins, the Lotte Giants and the Samsung Lions. The opposite 5 groups have joined the league at varied factors over the previous few a long time, with the latest additions being the KT Wiz and the NC Dinos, seven years in the past.Having a smaller league and groups that play comparatively shut to 1 one other could make for some intense rivalries. The NC Dinos’ Rucinski, who’s in his second season with the staff, instructed CNBC Make It that his staff’s largest rival is probably going the Lotte Giants, who play in Busan, South Korea solely about 20 miles away from the NC Dinos in Changwon.”Their followers journey to our stadium and our followers journey to theirs, so there may be all the time quite a lot of power within the stadium throughout these video games,” Rucinski mentioned. “Doosan and LG share a stadium [in Seoul] so that they have a reasonably large rivalry happening too.”For followers questioning which KBO groups are the preferred, the Kia Tigers (situated within the southwestern metropolis of Gwangju) are extensively thought-about to be the equal of the New York Yankees within the KBO. The staff has received 11 championships, greater than another KBO staff.Nevertheless, the Seoul-based Doosan Bears have been extra profitable lately, successful three titles previously 5 years, together with in 2019. Thus far this season, although, the NC Dinos have had essentially the most success, main the KBO with 12 wins and simply three losses, as of Friday.How else does it examine to MLB?In additional regular instances, KBO video games are often identified for offering a raucous ambiance the place followers cheer loudly whereas beating on drums and chanting their staff’s combat songs. “We miss having followers within the stadium,” Rucinski says. “They cheer all the recreation, regardless of what’s occurring, which makes for a enjoyable ambiance.”However even with no followers within the stands, there are nonetheless some components of KBO baseball that stand out.A type of components is bat-flipping — the place gamers dramatically toss their bats excessive into the air after hitting a house run. It is a controversial apply within the U.S., the place MLB gamers typically face repercussions for bat flips that some traditionalists see as disrespectful to the pitcher. In South Korea, although, the apply is extensively accepted and seen as a joyous celebration of an thrilling second in any recreation. Actually, some KBO bat flips have gone viral on social media right here within the U.S. through the years, and the apply has even slowly began to indicate up extra in American baseball.Outfielder Aaron Altherr of the NC Dinos bats in a KBO League recreation between the NC Dinos and SK Wyverns on Might 15 in Incheon, South Korea.Chung Sung-Jun | Getty ImagesRucinski admits that bat-flipping is likely one of the largest stylistic variations between the KBO and MLB, however he additionally notes that the apply “is simply part of the sport right here. It would not have a detrimental connotation prefer it does within the U.S.”Rucinski additionally provides that it is a lot much less prone to see gamers arguing with umpires within the KBO than within the MLB, the place gamers and coaches are frequently ejected from video games for aggressively disputing umpire’s calls.”Arguing with the umpire is one factor that actually simply would not occur right here,” Rucinski says. “I noticed perhaps one man tossed from a recreation all final season.”Aaron Altherr, an outfielder for the NC Dinos who performed for the MLB’s Philadelphia Phillies from 2014 to 2019, tells CNBC Make It that one other main distinction he is already observed within the KBO is the presence of staff cheerleaders, which don’t exist within the MLB.”The most important distinction would most likely be the truth that there are cheerleaders right here they usually play the house gamers’ cheer songs all through the entire at bat,” Altherr says.Actually, not solely do KBO groups all have their very own combat songs, however cheerleaders and followers additionally usually cheer on particular person gamers with their very own, custom-made tunes. With out followers within the stands this season, KBO groups’ cheerleaders nonetheless cheer on their house groups and gamers, however they now put on protecting masks whereas doing so.Doosan Bears cheerleaders through the KBO League recreation between the NC Dinos and Doosan Bears on the Jamsil Baseball Stadium on Might 20, 2020 in Seoul.Han Myung-Gu | Getty ImagesWhat’s it like with out followers?”It is undoubtedly a bizarre ambiance taking part in with no followers within the stands,” Altherr says. “It feels extra like we’re taking part in scrimmage video games slightly than precise season video games. I am hoping they’ll convey the followers again in quickly.”With no followers within the stands, KBO groups have truly tried to make their stadiums really feel much less empty by putting in banners with images of followers within the stands rather than the actual factor. Nevertheless, the league has been actively planning for a minimum of some followers to return to video games this summer season, relying on how the pandemic progresses. The KBO is reportedly contemplating permitting groups to fill stadiums to not more than 20% capability as quickly as June.Banners displaying faces of followers are positioned within the seating space of Pleased Dream Ballpark throughout a baseball recreation between SK Wyverns and Hanwha Eagles as the sport performed with out spectators because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on Might 7, 2020 in Incheon, South Korea.Jong Hyun Kim | Anadolu Company by way of Getty ImagesRucinski and Wright each agree that they are hoping followers will quickly be capable to return to KBO video games in some capability. Wright notes that “the followers had been by far what I used to be wanting ahead to essentially the most” when he signed with the NC Dinos earlier than this season.”So, it is somewhat disappointing to not have [fans], nevertheless it has made for an excellent dugout ambiance and attending to know my staff mates even higher,” Wright says.Which gamers do you should know?NC Dinos catcher Eui-Ji Yang, 33, is the league’s prime returning participant, in response to ESPN, following a yr by which the catcher led all KBO hitters in batting common and slugging share whereas hitting 20 house runs. Kia Tigers left-handed pitcher Hyeon-Jong Yang, 32, is one other prime participant to look at, in response to ESPN, as he received the league’s 2017 MVP award and pitched to a powerful 2.29 ERA final yr.Nevertheless, if followers are searching for a youthful Korean participant to root for, Baseball America lately named 24-year-old shortstop Ha-Seong Kim, of the Kiwoom Heroes, as one of the best MLB prospect at present taking part in within the KBO. Kim is a powerful hitter with pace (33 stolen bases in 2019) who many specialists consider may find yourself taking part in within the MLB throughout the subsequent few years.Final yr’s MVP of the KBO was American pitcher Josh Lindblom, who pitched for the Doosan Bears and led the league in wins (20) and strikeouts (189) earlier than signing a three-year, $9.1 million take care of the MLB’s Milwaukee Brewers in December.Lindblom is simply the most recent American baseball participant to expertise success after becoming a member of the KBO that paves the best way for an MLB deal. In 2016, the Brewers additionally handed a three-year deal (worth over $15 million) to hitter Eric Thames following his personal MVP efficiency in South Korea.Partially for that very risk, former MLB gamers head to the KBO yearly within the hopes of both furthering their careers internationally or utilizing a profitable stint within the KBO as a springboard to a profitable MLB deal. Each KBO staff is allotted three roster spots for international gamers (with Altherr, Rucinski and Wright filling these roles for the NC Dinos in 2020). Different notable former MLB gamers within the KBO this yr embrace pitcher Casey Kelly of the LG Twins, first baseman Jose Miguel Fernandez of the Doosan Bears and Lotte Giants pitcher Dan Straily.In the meantime, the Kia Tigers even have a couple of acquainted faces of their dugout, with former MLB All-Star and coach Matt Williams serving because the staff’s supervisor alongside hitting coach Hee-Seop Choi (a Korean-born former main leaguer who most lately performed for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2005).How a lot do KBO gamers earn?