With only one episode this week due to the New Year celebrations occurring around the world, Hot Stove League delivers a really intense slice of sport drama, one that dives into the minefield of recruiting foreign players. For the most part, the episode does well to keep tensions high although late on a flashback and strange edit does make things a little more convoluted than it perhaps should.
The episode itself begins with Seung-Soo phoning through to try and get more funds allocated before heading out to eat some food with the rest of the team after a stale-mate with pitcher Miles. As it turns out, there’s another team scouting him too, General Manager Mr Oh from the Pelicans.
After some deliberation, the Junior Managing Director decides not to cough up the funds. However, they do have 900,000 to play with and as Seung-Soo mentions himself soon after, money isn’t the only deciding factor when it comes to buying players. Back at Dreams’ headquarters, the team deliberate over assigning a new Pitching Coach before asking where Seung-Soo is, discussing his intentions on buying a new pitcher.
Back in America, Seung-Soo approaches Miles and tells him the truth. They have $900,000 and as he keeps talking, he discusses how the Pelicans replaced their foreign players twice the previous year but tries to persuade him by looking ahead at how Dreams could skyrocket his career, giving him a major break in the Korean league. He suggests giving Dreams a contract for one-year, as a stepping stone to something better which could launch him off to other leagues, along with the condition that he plays the entire time.
However, Mr Oh and Miles’ manager arrive and swoop in on the deal. Unfortunately money is too much of a factor for Miles and he signs with the Pelicans. As the team head back, defeated, Seung-Soo picks up the morale in the team and offers words of encouragement before heading back out and continuing to scout other pitchers. However, this comes to nothing and they all decide to head home.
Midway through doing this however, their car runs out of gas at the foot of a mountain. Only, the very next scene they’re aboard a plane home. From here, we then rewind time and see three days prior to that fateful moment, with Seung-Soo at his computer following Miles’ manager telling him there’s no contact. However, they do see Kill Chang-Ju outside alone practicing and he seems pretty talented. As it turns out, he has a very strong arm but then Jae-Hee manages to take the shots and hold them, despite his hand raw-red from the force of it. As they talk, we learn that he’s permanently banned from playing in Korea.
From here we then skip forward to fill in the blanks as to the real reason Seung-Soo was eating dinner at Chang-Ju’s house, phoning the Baseball Association and trying to get Chang-Ju’s ban lifted. We then jump back to the broken down car, where Se-Young and Seung-Soo are left together while the others rush off to get gas. When he returns, Seung-Soo reveals that Chang-Ju’s ban has been lifted and has been for the last 8 years. Seung-Soo gives him a proposition, offering him 500,000 dollars to come and play for Dreams. However, he deliberates over it, given his family history and issues surrounding the military service.
When Chang-Ju heads home after their meeting, he embraces his wife and tells her they can play baseball again. Tears of joy flood down their faces upon this news and with Seung-Soo behind this, we then cut back to the plane landing in Korea, and an ensuing press conference for Chang-Ju. At the conference, Seung-Soo answers the questions with a calm demeanor and manages to respond to all the questions.
One last question from Kim Young Chae however, throws them all off-guard as she asks how he feels about enlisting in the military now. It’s an awkward question and evidently throws him off his game, leaving the episode hanging in the balance this week until we return next Friday for more Hot Stove League!
With plenty of sport drama throughout and some good characterisation, Hot Stove League continues to impress with its latest episode. Given I’m not a native Korean and just studying the language right now, I can’t tell you how accurate the depiction of military service is and how crucial it is to the culture but it appears to be handled well regardless.
The negotiations between managers certainly offers up some interesting bites of drama too and seeing Seung-Soo calmly navigate this, despite some tricky questions and issues throughout, is good to see and certainly adds some tension. There’s plenty of scope to progress forward from here though and with the team finally coming together, the future certainly looks bright for Dreams. But then again, what will become of the team after this season?
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