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Members of the 8th U.S. Army, including South Korean Augmentees to the U.S. Army, gather Tuesday to watch the South Korean and American baseball teams go head-to-head.

Members of the 8th U.S. Army, including South Korean Augmentees to the U.S. Army, gather Tuesday to watch the South Korean and American baseball teams go head-to-head. (T.D. Flack / S&S)

YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — Crowds gathered in work spaces, in the food court and in front of television displays in the base exchange on Tuesday to watch South Korea and the United States go head-to-head in the 2006 World Baseball Classic.

The U.S. troops said it was a good chance for their team to shine in America’s national pastime. But as the South Korean team put run after run onto the scoreboard, smiles began creeping across the South Koreans’ faces.

“We didn’t expect the Korean team to win,” KATUSA Cpl. Shim Yung-sik said early in the 8th inning, with his team up 7-1. “I’m really proud of it. But I feel sorry for the U.S. soldiers.”

South Korea went on to win 7-3.

Shim and his co-workers traded friendly jabs with the U.S. soldiers they work with at 8th Army.

“Actually, it’s a great experience,” he said, “to be face-to-face with your opponent’s fans. Their reaction is really fun.”

Sergeant 1st Class Timothy Hembree, also with 8th Army, could only shake his head.

“We’re a lot stronger than that,” he said, nodding toward the television. “We’ve just gotta’ keep hold of what sport we started.”

Sgt. Jason Montesanto of the United Nations Honor Guard, watching the game in the food court, gave the South Korean squad credit.

“They scored across a couple of innings,” he said. “It wasn’t just one rally.”

He said the South Korean team’s strength surprised him. Baseball, he said, is something Americans “expect to dominate.”

When the final U.S. player grounded out in Anaheim, Calif., putting South Korea above America 7-3, it was hard on this U.S. base half a world away to find a South Korean base employee or Korean Augmentee to the U.S. Army not grinning from ear to ear.


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