Koreans love baseball, and Namgung Min is in a drama about baseball. But do we love baseball? Yeah… that’s a no for a lot of drama watchers. But if there is one thing we know about Namgung Min, he can make office politics interesting, and if he can do that, then anything is possible, including getting these fangirls to watch a baseball drama.
In the beginning there is a baseball team called Dreams that is at the bottom of the league and has the most disheartened head coach ever. A manager of winning teams in other sports, Baek Seung Soo (Namgung Min), comes to the stadium to see it all for himself.
The players make all kinds of mistakes; they can’t catch, they drop the ball, and they run into each other. While I was still thinking, “this can’t be right,” my husband burst out laughing and kept on laughing. It was like a blooper reel!
Han Jae Hee (Jo Byung Gyu), a new member of the operations team, has been detailed to wear the mascot costume because the regular guy wouldn’t come in. He flops down on the floor in dismay, and his team leader, Lee Se Young (Park Eun Bin), sees him on the screen. She high-tails it out to the stadium to slap him upside the head.
Manager Baek is a smart guy, who claims to not know much about baseball, but a lot about human nature. He is hired to turn the team around. He seems to have decided that this is like a poker game, because he wears his poker face most of the time and you can never tell what he’s thinking.
Drama Geek: So picture all the smarts and behind the scenes maneuvering that Chief Kim did, but with a deadpan face. His character is very tricky to figure out. I know he wants to make the team win, and I can see glints of compassion in his eyes from time to time, but I am still left wondering why all his teams disband after he gets them to win. It doesn’t help that this actor plays a serial killer almost too well.
Team Leader Lee has been a baseball fan ever since her dad took her to games as a child. She is very likeable and enthusiastic and quite knowledgable, but has no idea what is wrong with the team.
Drama Geek: She is too close to everyone to see all the problems and issues that are right before her. It doesn’t take much from Manager Baek to open her eyes and get behind him. Her goal is for the team to be healthy and thriving and she will do what it takes, as long as it’s good for her players.
Jae Hee got his job through connections with his wealthy family, and even though you might expect him to be an entitled rich kid, he works hard. He quickly becomes a fan of Manager Baek.
Drama Geek: He is a total chatter box and very eager to please. I do think Team Leader Lee has a lot to do with how much he wants to be seen as a good worker. Not that she is the only reason, he seems to truly enjoy his job. It’s interesting because this type of drama could pair them together as a side plot and not have a romance with the main leads. I wouldn’t be apposed to that. Also… if he looks familiar he was poor sweet Sateunik in Arthdal Chronicles.
Kwon Kyeong Min (Oh Jung Se) is the nephew of the owner of the baseball club. He’s a director in their conglomerate and the one making decisions about the baseball team. We get the feeling that he will be increasingly important.
Drama Geek: He seeeeems to be on Manager Baek’s side but I am not convinced. I think he will become the main person that Baek has to fight to really keep the team together by the end.
Stove league is a term for the off-season. Back in the day, managers used to sit around a coal stove and make plans for the next year. This story is about the management, not so much the players. It’s about figuring out what has been going wrong with the team, and deciding on the best fix. When Team Leader Lee asserts that she trusts all the staff, Manager Baek replies, “You are not trusting, you are just dimly watching.” Haha! He analyzes everything and decides who is toxic and who can be worked with. Some of it is bullying and bribery, but some is just unintentional bad decisions. We also get a complicated issue about military service.
We know of course that characters have to have difficulties or there is no story. I like to have my guys win fairly often; if they are too downtrodden it’s no fun and I give up on the show. This show has a positive vibe, and the characters are very engaging. We want to see their adventures.
Drama Geek: The team is on it’s last leg. Corruption, infighting, bad picks for players, and so many other things has put this team in last place. Manager Baek will shake everything up, and I think he’ll actually get rattled himself. He has a lot of backstory that still has not been revealed, like the brother who lives with him, and that (ex?) wife he had dinner with. As the show progresses it has become more about both the management staff and the players. It’s been a delight to see them be able to dream again. I am here for the characters, and their journey. If I have to sit through a little baseball then so be it.
Our team is call the Dreams, and their color is green. I am reminded of a movie from several years back called Field of Dreams. The players wore white uniforms, but there was a lot of green in the surrounding cornfield. Field of Dreams is in the news again because there is going to be a pro ballgame next summer in a new stadium built right next to where the movie was filmed. I can imagine they know about it in Korea.
The team the Dreams are playing against in Episode 1 is the Vikings, and their color is purple. Having lived in Minnesota, I know that they have a team called the Vikings whose color is purple, but it’s a football team. Just a little different. The Minnesota baseball team is the Twins, which is also the name of the real-life Seoul baseball team.
Until the next pitch,
Dramas With a Side of Kimchi
2 thoughts on “First Impressions and Unfiltered Thoughts: Stove League”
I’m looking forward to this because A) Namgoong Min and B) I do like baseball! Just a note related to the game: it’s not uncommon for teams that win championships to break up (lose key players and/or managers, etc.) afterwards because in many cases a significant event like this means that many players want to negotiate higher contracts and teams have salary caps to keep richer teams from buying up all the best players. Repeating championships sequentially is hard for this reason. And, it’s not that rare for teams to get the “yips” and end up on the highlight reels because they’re playing like clumsy little leaguers (just not every game). I’m hoping this one is a winner, but either way, getting to listen to his baritone is never a chore.
Thank you for your insight on championship teams losing players. I can see how that would work. The situation with this drama is a little different I think, in that they say the teams “disband.” That seems to mean that something odd is going on and they no longer exist. We’ll just have to wait to see if that is the case. Fighting!