'To hear a pin drop in the stands is strange': Londoner playing baseball in Korea
LONDON, ONT. -- Jamie Romak is one of the few hundred athletes in the world still competing in professional sports.
Sure, they're playing inter-squad games against their own team, with no fans in the stands, but the London, Ont. native and his Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) squad are playing ball.
"It is weird especially because a lot of the allure of this league is the crowds," says Romak, a first baseman for SK Wyverns.
"The entertainment that goes on during the games typically includes cheering, music and events. To hear a pin drop in the stands is strange."
In a country of 50 million people, all contained in a small land area, South Korea is seeing less than 100 cases of COVID-19 per day. Romak lives in Incheon, a city bordering the capital of Seoul.
"Through MERS, and SARS they have developed a protocol that works for them," says the 34-year-old Romak.
"They are also fortunate to have a culture that at follows orders well. When asked to stay home, people stay home."
He adds they have plenty of hand sanitizer and masks to go around, and with a nice spring weekend, people were outside all weekend shopping, and playing in parks.
"The curve has been flattening here for a while now, and officials are working as hard as they can to keep it that way."
It's a stark contrast to nearly 11,000 km away in London, Ont. where his family is staying. His wife just gave birth two weeks ago to their second boy and she is at home in Canada self-isolating.
"There is always a period at the beginning of the year where we have a delay in seeing each other. Hearing what everyone is going through back home right now with shortages and simple things like getting diapers back home I'd like to get them here as soon as possible. Not only because we're together, but life is a lot more normal here."
Romak says Korean schools will return on April 6, and his team will begin exhibition games against other teams on April 7. The KBO has a projected opening day in three weeks.
"To be playing baseball when nobody else is, we are fortunate," adds Romak, who is entering his fourth season in Korea.
"Hopefully things will get to a point where people can come to the fields, and bring some joy to people's lives during a tough time."