The global outbreak of the novel coronavirus has prevented baseball fans from attending regular games in person, though some leagues have found ways to bring their teams online. The Korean Baseball Organization, which has a large population of American expats and players, has partnered with ESPN to broadcast six KBO games a week on its channels. That’s a big boon to ultra-early risers, night owls and insomniacs who had been starved for live sports.
The KBO, which was founded in 1982 and has produced many MLB players, including 2019 All-Star Hyun-jin Ryu, has a reputation for putting on entertaining games. The league even has its own dancers in the stands, and cheerleaders sing each team’s fight song during an at-bat. But with the COVID-19 epidemic still raging in South Korea, it’s unlikely that crowds will fill the stadiums again anytime soon.
In March last year, all 10 KBO teams streamed their home preseason games on YouTube and portal sites to attract tens of thousands of viewers. The league’s website says it plans to do the same this season, though it’s not clear whether that will continue.
That’s why ESPN’s partnership with the KBO is so significant, enabling American fans to watch their favorite teams and players on TV rather than in person. ESPN is televising six games a week Tuesdays through Friday and Saturdays (with Sundays at 1 a.m. ET) on its ESPN2 channel and the ESPN app. The network says it will feature English-language commentary from familiar ESPN announcers, including Karl Ravech, Eduardo Perez, Jon Sciambi and Jessica Mendoza.
But while the partnership with ESPN is a major development, it won’t solve all of the problems that have caused the cancellation of regular-season games and the postponement of the start of college baseball and NHL hockey. It’s also unclear how long the KBO games will be available to fans, as the league may shut down if one player tests positive for the virus.
For now, you can watch the games on ESPN’s website or app (but you’ll need to have a cable subscription). And for cord-cutters, there are several live TV streaming services that offer ESPN and its sister channels in their packages — Sling TV, Hulu with Live TV and YouTube TV, to name three. All of those services have apps that work on mobile devices, as well. And if you’re traveling, you can use a VPN to connect to a local server to watch the game. That will let you bypass any regional restrictions imposed by the streaming service. 한국야구실시간