K-Drama Review: “Stove League” Scores A Home Run With Well-Written Characters And Life-Affirming Lessons
It has been a challenging off-season for Baek Seung Soo and the rest of Dreams, but the results are well worth it.
Stove League wormed its way to viewers’ hearts as evidenced by the high viewership ratings throughout its run. The final episode, aired on February 14, recorded the highest ratings for the drama. Not surprising, as the audience must have tuned in to see how their beloved Dreams fared after all they have been through.
It has a happy ending, somewhat bittersweet, but a happy ending, nonetheless. Stove League has sixteen episodes focused on the characters and their stories. How each overcame their fears and insecurities to remain with the team and play the sport they all love.
Title: Stove League (Hot Stove League)
Theme: Sports, Family, Life Drama
Length: 16 Episodes
Broadcast Date: 13 Dec 2019 – 14 Feb 2020
Main Leads: Nam Goong Min, Park Eun Bin, Oh Jung Se, Jo Byung Gyu
Highlights: Engaging Characters, Captivating Plot, Solid Writing
Nam Goong Min, Park Eun Bin, Oh Jung Se, Jo Byeong Gyu as well as the rest of the cast and crew, all deserve a pat on their backs for a job well-done. For giving viewers, baseball and non-baseball fans alike, a quality and enjoyable drama to watch.
Stove League Quick Plot Roundup
Baek Seung Soo (Nam Goong Min) takes on the position of General Manager (GM) of Dreams, a pro-league baseball team. He has the ability to revamp sports teams and lead them to championships. However, he also has the reputation of having those teams disbanded after winning a trophy. Kwon Kyung Min, the nephew of Jaesong (Dreams’ parent company) Group’s Chairman and acting owner of the ballclub, taps Baek Seung Soo’s services with one goal in mind – Dreams’ dissolution.
The team has been at the bottom of the standings for the last four years, despite the talents and potentials of the players. Coming in at a team with such low morale, Baek Seung Soo meets a lot of antagonisms. The criticisms and obvious resentments do not deter the new GM, instead he proves himself. With the help of Operations Manager Lee Se Young (Park Eun Bin) and staff Han Jae Hee (Jo Byeong Gyu), they show the skeptics that Dreams has a bright future ahead of them.
However, Kwon Kyung Min does everything to stand in Baek Seung Soo’s way and goes all out to ensure his failure. After butting heads and upending each other, both soon realize they are good at what they do. In the end, their actions benefit Dreams as well as themselves.
Stove League Highlights
Well-written and Well-acted Characters
Watching Stove League does not require a vast knowledge about the sport. Baseball served as the backdrop and some (especially non-fans) would find the numbers and terminologies quite daunting. Looking past the statistics and the lingo, there are endearing characters viewers cheered on and rooted for.
Nam Goong Min proved once again that he is a master of his craft. He was able to depict Baek Seung Soo’s eccentricities and vulnerabilities. Behind the emotionless and straightforward façade, Baek Seung Soo was hurting inside. Haunted by guilt over his brother’s injury which confined him to a wheelchair, Seung Soo became withdrawn.
When the loss of their child shattered the family he tried to build, and he and his spouse ended up in divorce, he turned to his work, did the best he could to the point of ruthlessness. When his job exposed him to the cruel and uncertainty of the sports world, he tried so hard not to form any attachments. All of these are normal reactions of someone who has been gone through a lot.
Oh Jung Se as Kwon Kyung Min was as convincing. Viewed as the “bad guy” mainly because of his desire to impress and please the rich side of his family, particularly his uncle who is the Chairman. He did mostly the dirty works to the point people loathe him. I like how the drama redeemed his character. While he may not be able to undo the things he did, he was able to stand up for himself in the end. He was able to realize he has the capabilities to succeed on his own, without his relatives’ interventions.
Park Eun Bin depicted a strong character in Lee Se Young. Despite the challenges she faced and would continue to encounter, she thrived on her position. It was not easy, but Lee Se Young proved she is capable as Dreams’ Operations Manager. Jo Byung Gyu also shone as Han Jae Hee, the guy people always thought got in through nepotism. Perhaps there was a ring of truth behind then rumor but people can see how much he values his position and that Dreams can count on him.
The supporting characters all added substance to the already meaty narrative that viewers could not help but connect with them. Each has defined their essence to the story making their existence believable and necessary.
The actors in Stove League have so much great material to work on, and combined with their talents, viewers have been gifted with a beautiful, human-centric drama. I love how the series tackled the backstories of the characters. It made them so real, it felt like they are people we get to interact with every day or someone we know.
That scene where Baek Seung Soo cried while holding Kil Chang Joo’s baby was so impactful. It was established from the get-go that Baek Seung Soo has so much emotional baggage, but as viewers we don’t really know how heavy that is. Him breaking down in front of people he barely knew gave viewers a glimpse of how much he lost and how his pain ran deep.
You look forward to each episode wanting to know what happens next. The battle of wills between Baek Seung Soo and Kwon Kyung Min particularly stood out. It is clear both were just fighting for the things they believed in. It was fun to watch every time they clash and one besting the other. They fueled each other’s passion to be the best at what they do.
While baseball offered the link between the characters, the series made sure to tell their stories. I love that Stove League focused more on the things that went on behind the scenes. It gave viewers a glimpse of the action off the field. There was great execution with the story’s progression, the character developments and connection of plot points that there were no dull moments.
Stove League was definitely more than just a drama centered on a sport. It took viewers to a space where a few have been given an opportunity to look into. Oftentimes, as fans, we only see the action upfront and tend to just ignore what goes on behind. Regardless of the sports, as fans we get so passionate.
We blame the coaches when players hurt themselves on the court or on the field. Once trade rumors spread and it involved our favorite player, we cursed at the management. When they don’t get their playing time or end their contracts and signed up with another team, we get angry at the company and the people working in it. We overlook that a lot of efforts and negotiations happen before things get done.
The drama just reminded us that the things we see on the surface are just a fraction of the entire process. Both can be said with sports or life. We forget that the people we take for granted and easily pass judgment on are human beings, too. People who go through ordeals we can only imagine.
They are people who want the same things we do. They want to live a happy life and do the things they love to do. There is nothing wrong in wanting to be successful. However, if it means compromising your moral compass or letting people walk all over you, then it is really not worth it.
Failures and hardships provide humans with a different perspective. Some may give up while others would continue to fight. Those on the verge of letting go or has completely surrendered only need a little push. An encouragement from someone they could trust and depend on. A person who would give them the opportunity to do things accordingly.
Though their parent company achieved the ultimate goal of selling the team, Dreams have a brighter future ahead of them. With a solid line-up of players and a strong management team, they have a well-lit road to success. It took a while and a lot of painful experiences, but Dreams are getting there. The future is uncertain, that much is true. But with all their hard work, that coveted trophy is pretty much in their hands.
Life will throw us curve balls. It may take us a few bases before getting back on the home plate. But it does not mean we can’t. We will make mistakes every now and then. We will face situations where we have to make tough decisions. But, unlike baseball, where three strikes mean you are out, life will struck us multiple times. It is up to us whether we stop swinging and opt for a walk or focus to hit that home run.
Image Source: SBS