Major League Baseball's head field and ballpark consultant is in South Korea this week at the invitation of that country's top baseball league to conduct reviews on their facilities and establish maintenance guidelines that will lead to an overall increase in standards.
Murray Cook, president of Brickman Sports Turf, began looking over ballparks in the Busan area on Tuesday and will be there through Friday in conjunction with the Korean Baseball Organization. The delegation is studying the stadiums' grounds, grass, fences, lighting and nets.
Cook will follow inspection standards that apply to venues for MLB games and the World Baseball Classic, among other major events.
"The club owners and city operators have been just awesome," Cook said in an e-mail to MLB.com. "They are really engaged in developing methods to improve their fields and venues overall. Developing a set of field and ballpark standards will help current parks reach their goal of having safer fields for all levels of play.
"The two stadiums we saw today were in the Busan area -- an older park called Daegu, and a somewhat newer, larger venue called Sajik Stadium. The Daegu is a pretty cool park. Sajik is a 28,000-seat venue with 305 down the lines and a 15-foot wall from pole to pole. I met one of the [South Korea] players from the 2008 Beijing Olympic team today playing for the Lions. He actually remembered seeing me in Beijing."
In addition to the safety factor, this is increasingly relevant to MLB from a competitive viewpoint with the increased infusion of players from South Korea, such as Dodgers pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu and Reds center fielder Shin-Soo Choo.
"They currently use the step-down rubbers like you see in amateur fields, and the mounds are really flat, so yes, their pitchers would need to make some adjustments to taller, firmer mounds in the USA," Cook said. "It's been something the KBO has been talking about doing for a while, and now that they are building new parks, they want to implement some improvements."
Cook said the KBO has a domed park under construction in Seoul and will begin another one next year in the Busan area.
The KBO said based on Cook's evaluation, it will compile a new maintenance guide for the ballparks and distribute copies to KBO clubs and regional governments that operate the stadiums.
In 2013, nine KBO teams are playing at eight stadiums. Two Seoul-based clubs, the LG Twins and the Doosan Bears, share Jamsil Stadium as their home. A 10th club, the KT Wiz, is scheduled to join the KBO in 2015, with Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, as its hometown.
Dubbed the "Field Guru," Cook has more than three decades of experience managing professional and amateur baseball fields worldwide. He is one of the original MLB.com Bloggers, having started Murray Cook's Field & Ballpark Blog on the day that community was established in April 2005. He also published "Baseball Field Maintenance: A General Guide for Fields of All Levels," through the Baseball Tomorrow Fund, a joint initiative of MLB and the MLB Players Association.