The regular season for the Korea Baseball Organization, the highest level of baseball in South Korea, is in full swing, making the KBO one of the first major professional sports leagues to return to action during the coronavirus pandemic.
For those just getting familiar with the Korean baseball league, it's action-packed baseball filled with home runs, bat flips (lots and lots of bat flips), former MLB players and Korean-born stars who could follow the path of Hyun-Jin Ryu and Ji-Man Choi from the KBO to major league stardom.
You can watch the action with six regular-season English-language broadcast games per week, airing primarily on ESPN2 at 5:30 a.m. ET Tuesdays through Fridays, 4 a.m. ET on Saturdays and Sundays.
KBO on ESPN broadcast schedule
(All times ET and all games on ESPN -- except where noted -- and for streaming via the ESPN App)
Sunday, July 5
4 a.m.: LG Twins vs. Samsung Lions
Tuesday, July 7
5:30 a.m.: LG Twins vs. Doosan Bears
Wednesday, July 8
5:30 a.m.: KT Wiz vs. Kia Tigers
Thursday, July 9
5:30 a.m. on ESPN2: LG Twins vs. Doosan Bears
Friday, July 10
5:30 a.m.: NC Dinos vs. LG Twins
Saturday, July 11
5 a.m.: Doosan Bears vs. Lotte Giants
Sunday, July 12
4 a.m.: NC Dinos vs. LG Twins
KBO highlights -- get ready for some bat flips!
'A fielding meltdown!' Giants take the lead in the KBO
Two base runners score for the Lotte Giants after a Kiwoom Heroes fielding nightmare.
'Way, way outta here!' Lions smash another homer
Samsung Lions hit a huge 2-run homer to bring their score to 8-0 vs. KT Wiz in the KBO.
You don't see bat flips like these everyday
Byeong-Woo Jeon and Hyoung-Woo Choi of the KBO show some flair with two sweet home run bat flips
'That ball was crushed!' Two-run homer in the KBO
NC Dinos' Kang Jin-sung extends their lead with his eighth home run of the season against Doosan Bears.
ESPN's KBO Power Rankings
1. NC Dinos: 32-14 (Last week: 1) -- The Dinos took two of three from both the Wiz and Bears to hold steady at the top of the KBO heap. Six-year MLB veteran Aaron Altherr continues to heat up; he's hitting .321 with seven homers and 24 RBIs in 23 games this month.
2. Kiwoom Heroes: 30-18 (4) -- Kiwoom continued its climb, going 5-1 for the week to improve to a league-best 18-6 for the month. The Heroes' surge included a win Thursday in which they trailed the Twins 5-0 entering the seventh inning and went ahead on a Byung-ho Park grand slam in the ninth, then back-to-back shutouts of Kia, the Heroes' first two shutout wins of the season.
3. LG Twins: 27-20 (2) -- The Twins' momentum was stopped cold by a seven-game losing streak, but LG can hope it changed course with back-to-back shutouts of the Wyverns over the weekend. Chan-heon Jung went the distance Saturday to improve to 4-1 with a 2.56 ERA and 1.03 WHIP in six starts.
4. Doosan Bears: 28-19 (3) -- The Bears were blanked in the rubber game of their series with the Dinos, losing 5-0 to NC's Drew Rucinski, leaving Doosan 3-3 for the week.
5. Kia Tigers: 24-21 (5) -- It was an odd week for the Tigers, who played only four games because of back-to-back rainouts and were shut out by Kiwoom twice over the weekend.
6. Samsung Lions: 24-24 (6) -- A 4-2 week pushed the Lions back to .500, and one reason for their turnaround is the pitching of Jung-hyun Baek, who pitched six shutout innings in Saturday's win over Lotte. Baek has a 1.50 ERA over his past four starts after posting a 14.79 ERA in his first three.
7. Lotte Giants: 22-23 (7) -- Lotte's Ah-seop Son is hitting .405 (15-for-37) in his past nine games to push his season average to .347, fifth in KBO.
8. KT Wiz: 21-26 (8) -- The Wiz logged one of the season's most eye-opening wins Thursday, crushing the first-place Dinos 19-6 in a game started by no less than Chang-mo Koo, who had a KBO-leading 0.82 ERA going in. Mel Rojas Jr. continued his tear, boosting his league-high home run total to 17, 11 of which have come in June.
9. SK Wyverns: 14-33 (9) -- File this one under "all for naught." The Wyverns snapped a seven-game losing streak with their first shutout win of the season Thursday, then matched that with a 7-0 win over the Twins on Friday. (SK had a KBO-high 19 shutout wins last season.) But LG then turned the tables on the Wyverns with back-to-back blankings over the weekend.
10. Hanwha Eagles: 12-36 (10) -- The Eagles' miserable season was summed up with the ending of Wednesday's game against Samsung. Hanwha held a 2-1 lead with two outs in the ninth and a runner on second before closer Woo-ram Jung tripped and fell mid-pitch and had to leave the game. The ensuing sequence went wild pitch, walk (on a close pitch), single (tying the game), E6 (continuing the inning), walk-off single for the Lions. It looks even worse than it sounds:
(Selected by Joon Lee, Alden Gonzalez and Dan Mullen)
KBO players you need to know
Eui-Ji Yang, C, NC Dinos. American pitcher Josh Lindblom was the 2019 MVP after leading the league in wins, strikeouts and innings and finishing second in ERA, but he signed a three-year, $9.125 contract with the Brewers to return to MLB. That leaves Yang as the top returning player in the MVP vote. The veteran catcher will turn 33 this month, but he hit .354/.438/.574, leading the KBO in all three categories while hitting 20 home runs in 118 games -- with more walks than strikeouts. Last year was his first season with the Dinos after spending the first nine seasons of his career with the Doosan Bears.
Hyeon-Jong Yang, LHP, Kia Tigers. The league MVP in 2017, Yang finished third in the 2019 voting after going 16-8 and leading the league with a 2.29 ERA. The 32-year-old lefty fanned 163 in 184⅔ innings and allowed just six home runs. After control problems earlier in his career, he walked just 1.6 per nine innings last season, a career best.
Ha-Seong Kim, SS, Kiwoom Heroes. One of the league's young stars, Kim hit .307/.389/.491, with 19 home runs, 38 doubles and 33 steals in 37 attempts. Now 24, Kim has been a regular since he was 19 and has been one of the league's top all-around players. Even with a leaguewide drop in offense in 2019 after changes were made to the ball, Kim improved his OPS by 48 points, making it his best season yet.
Baek-Ho Kang, RF, KT Wiz. Just 20 years old, Kang hit .336/.416/.495 with 13 home runs in 438 at-bats as a teenager last season, although his power dropped from 29 home runs with the deadened ball. Still, his average went up 46 points, and he also showcased solid plate discipline for such a young player, making him the Juan Soto of the KBO, of sorts. Like Soto, Kang also is a sight to see at the plate, with a high leg kick even by Korean standards and some of the best bat flips in the league. He should be in the middle of the Korean lineup at the next World Baseball Classic.
Jeong Choi, 3B, SK Wyverns. One of the league's great veteran players with 335 career home runs, Choi was a heralded high school pitcher and hitter before finally settling on hitting as a pro. He was a member of World Baseball Classic teams in 2009 and 2013 and led the KBO in home runs in 2016 and 2017. He is 33 but is coming off a season in which he hit .292/.399/.519 with 29 home runs, ranking tied for second in home runs and fourth in OPS.
Byung-Ho Park, 1B, Kiwoom Heroes. Park's two-year stint with the Minnesota Twins didn't go so well, as he hit .191 in 215 at-bats (although with 12 home runs) in 2016 and spent all of 2017 at Triple-A. He returned to Korea and remains the top slugger in the league, hitting 43 home runs in 2018 and leading the league with 33 in 2019.
Hyun-Soo Kim, LF/1B, LG Twins. You might remember Kim from his time with the Baltimore Orioles and Philadelphia Phillies in 2016 and 2017. He returned to Korea in 2018 and hit .362 with 20 home runs, but he fell off to .304 and 11 in 2019. He is 32 and one of the biggest names in the league, but he went from fifth in the league in OPS to 25th, so we'll see if age is catching up to him.
Casey Kelly, RHP, LG Twins. A Red Sox first-round pick back in 2008, Kelly became a top prospect for the Padres. But he had Tommy John surgery in 2013 and bounced around the minors, with some spot appearances in the majors for the Padres, Atlanta Braves and San Francisco Giants, before heading to Korea for 2019. He went 14-12 with a 2.55 ERA for the Twins (although 19 unearned runs helped lower the ERA), striking out 126 in 180⅓ innings. Kelly throws a low-90s sinker that helps him get ground balls but doesn't result in a high strikeout rate. That wasn't enough to keep him in the majors, but it was effective enough in the KBO. Tyler Wilson, Kelly's American teammate, also had a good season for the Twins, going 14-7 with a 2.92 ERA and similar peripherals to Kelly.
Jose Miguel Fernandez, 1B/DH, Doosan Bears. Fernandez had a cup of coffee with the Los Angeles Angels in 2018, but he signed with Doosan for 2019 and was one of the league's best hitters, hitting .344/.409/.483 with 15 home runs while leading the league in hits. Fernandez played some second base and third base for the Angels, but the Cuban player's glove doesn't really work in the infield except at first base, and he lacks the power to play there in the U.S. He spent most of his time at designated hitter in 2019 for Doosan.
Jamie Romak, 1B, SK Wyverns. The Canada native got 39 plate appearances for the Braves and Arizona Diamondbacks in 2014 and 2015. Now he heads into his fourth season in the KBO as one of the top sluggers in the league. He hit .276/.370/.508 in 2019 with 29 home runs -- after seasons of 31 and 43 homers. Romak brings a three true outcomes approach to the KBO: He ranked second (tied) in home runs, fifth in walks and second (tied) in strikeouts. -- David Schoenfield