A New General Manager
Moneyball is one of my favourite films. Seeing Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill bring a team of misfits together to win the league made for an incredibly satisfying watch. Underdog stories, especially in sport titles, are an age-old tradition dating back way before Rocky won an Oscar. Given how popular baseball is in Korea, Stove League looks like a sure-fire home run, combining this simple story with a lovable national sport. The first episode gets things off to a good start too, introducing our main characters and throwing a pretty big spanner in the works for the established order.
Dreams is a team struggling to get their baseball season going. Despite popular batter Dong Gyu’s best efforts, as the episode opens, we see him hitting a home run. Outside the stadium, Baek Seung-Soo stops his car and looks up at the stadium before him; this is the team he’s hoping to take over as General Manager. As he makes it into the stadium, he watches first-hand the woes of the team, as they fail to catch any of the balls effectively. Their opponents, the Vikings, run rampant. It’s a poor result, and with Dreams second to last in the league table, kids start crying and the team is in disarray, fighting in the locker room.
Se-Young does her best to break it up but eventually snaps, slamming a baseball bat into the lockers to get their attention. Given it was their last game of the season, she berates their attitude as kids were watching. While the team head home during the off-season, Se-Young has dinner with those in charge and as everyone shares drinks, no one takes responsibility, prompting Mr Yoon to quit.
The next day, Se-Young is tasked with handling the upcoming interviews to replace the open position for General Manager. Through a series of slick swipes and split screens, Se-Young and the CEO work together to try and narrow down the candidates. Eventually Seung-Soo arrives for his interview. He goes hard on the interviewers though, telling them a lot of their problems in the team and deciding he wants to try and fix them.
Despite Se-Young sensing this is a bad idea, the CEO goes above her head and hires Seung-Soo anyway. He tells them all that he’ll be conducting meetings the following day but for now, he’ll take a look around the club. Se-Young is not happy but as it turns out, it wasn’t the CEO who made the decision, it was the Junior Managing Director.
While the group start to go through the roster of players, choosing who stays and who goes, Jin-Woo and Dong-Gyu talk before the latter heads off and speaks to Se-Young about his baseball technique. Seung-Soo calls him in for a meeting though and as he listens to him, he makes mental notes about the different players.
After meeting with the separate factions operating within the club, Seung-Soo makes his decision and decides to keep the head coach, going so far as to sign him up for a 3 year contract. He also allows the factional struggle to continue between coaches, telling them they can continue but only if they get results on the pitch. The third point though, is that he’s going to trade Dong Gyu out. Given his toxic attitude and arrogance, it’s hardly a surprise – a team is a team, not a single player.
He doesn’t take the news well though, and as he receives a text confirming this trade moments before winning his Golden Glove, he gets on stage and delivers a speech promising that he’ll stay in Dreams and retire there. As the episode closes out, a shadowy figure, presumably Dong-Gyu, destroys the general manager’s car and throws the golden glove through the windshield with an envelope of money. Was this actually him or is it a set-up?
With a good mystery at the end and enough spark in Seung-Soo’s appointment to promise fiery confrontations ahead, Stove Leagues gets off to a good start here. It’s hardly a surprise that Dong Gyu would be traded out either, especially given his arrogance throughout the episode. While it’s a blow that’s going to affect the team in a big way, I’d imagine doing this will make Seung-Soo’s job a little easier in bringing the entire team together to form a cohesive whole.
It won’t be smooth sailing of course but Stove League sets things up nicely, plotting its players strategically around the baseball pitch for the game ahead. Whether Stove League will make good on its promise and deliver a compelling sport drama remains to be seen but for now, all the ingredients are here for a decent watch ahead.
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