Baseball Taiwanese StyleMarch 13, 2010 - 9:35 PM | by: Adam Housley
DODGERS EVEN THE SERIES
Across an emerald-green rice paddy on the edge of Kaohsiung sits the best stadium we’ve seen so far and one that would fit nicely into any Triple A stadium stateside. The air here is thick, hot, and short. A quick walk from the bus to the clubhouse in this baking sun results in heavy sweat for players, coaches and anyone making the trek from the busses into the stadium.
This is game two, but was meant to be game three in Taiwan for the Dodgers and Major League Baseball. The game on Saturday back in Taipei got rained out after a couple of innings due to some serious downpours. It was a game of tarp off and on and the crowd packed the stands anyway, cheering every move.
Unfortunately for the sell out crowd, the game didn’t go off, but the players braved the drenching to pass out hats and signed baseballs to the crowd. After a fantastic game one, this was not the way everyone hoped the last night in the north would go.
Enter Sunday, and an early-morning ride on a bullet train to the south of the island and Cheng Cing Hu Stadium. Much newer and larger than the one for the first two games (one rainout), more than 20,000 packed-in under some pretty warm conditions to see the game between the men in blue and the Taiwanese All Stars.
Like Taipei, fans here carry thunder sticks and also little plastic bats that smack together to raise the noise. On top of the home dugout sits two massive drums, men with trumpets and even a guy on a mic stoking the crowd and players. Unlike the states, they don’t stop as the game goes on and the pitch is delivered.
Even with the noise, the Dodgers are a different team on this afternoon. They rip the ball around the field, play pretty good defense to bring home the win and tie this good will series at one. Everyone says this has been a success and baseball may send teams to Europe and even Australia if other team owners agree.
We have a ton of video and more reports to come, so stay tuned!
GAME ONE GOES TO THE HOME TEAM
I have found the origin of the thunder sticks and they come from here. If you haven’t been introduced to the elongated balloons used to intimidate opposing ears, you have missed what has become a staple of baseball. Yep, right next to the hotdogs and crackerjacks….well here it would be right next to the Tofu on a stick, Barbeque squid and the roasted/shredded duck stand. In any case, you’ll find tables lined with Asian credit card companies passing out thunder sticks to any and all entering the stadium and on this night they would get their fare share of use as the Taiwanese All-Stars came to play and their fans to cheer.
The first game between the Dodgers and the nine from Taipei just ended and the American side will hopefully get em tomorrow. The game stayed close early, but the team from Asia ripped open the game for three and then tacked on two more runs before holding off the men in blue 5-2. The Dodgers would only manage 3 hits, while giving up double digits to the locals. Even with one in the right-hand column, it was a win for Major League Baseball here tonight as fans packed the stadium and players on both benches seemed to really enjoy a spring training exhibition half way around the world….for us at least.
Taiwan is baseball crazy and the day started with a youth camp as some Dodgers players and coaches helped out a couple of hundred youngsters on the diamond. By the time batting practice began early in the evening, the media and fans had lined up and begun to fill the stands. The national anthem got its fair share of practice as did a variety of dance routines planned for in between innings. No bat races here.
Dodger Manager Joe Torre told me that the trip has been a good one and the enthusiasm from the host country has been not just welcomed, but cherished by he and his players and the overall Dodger organization. Meantime, several people within Major League Baseball and even Dodger Assistant General Manager Kim Ng have mentioned, they hoped this trip will encourage other owners to do the same. Sending teams across the pond this close to the season might seem grueling, or even risky, but for the Dodgers it has paid off in many ways. They are building on an international following, but more importantly they have a strong scouting presence in the region.
Two Taiwanese stars, Hu Chin-lung who plays short for the Dodgers, and pitcher Hong-Chih Kuo have come back for the trip and represent the Dodgers strength in this region. Kuo is the first player from Taiwan to hit a home run in MLB history, while Hu is the second. It these types of players that has baseball planning to continue its outreach across the ponds and by doing that you also increase the fan base and ultimately the bottom line. I am told due to this trips success, video highlights of this trip will be shown at the next owners meeting.
Now back to the game, as the first pitch was thrown and the dragons and drums rolled off the field, the cultural differences almost went away. Not that they needed to, but baseball has a way of bringing people together no matter where you are in the world. Needless to say, the mound to home will always be 60 feet…..6 inches and the basepaths 90 feet. While the public address announced in both Mandarin and English, the ball cracked off the bat and snapped into the glove just like it does in Chevez Ravine or for that matter Wrigley. Here two nations battled over the same pastime and while one won on the scoreboard tonight, they both won on the field.
LANDED IN THE FAR EAST
I knew Taiwan has baseball fever, but little did I expect a welcome like the one bestowed on the Dodgers tonight. Yep, after 15 hours and about 7,500 miles, the Los Angeles Dodgers have made the long trek from Phoenix, to Chinese Taipei. From outside the arrival gate and airport, to a jammed packed lobby and press conference, these games are being met here with massive fanfare. This is big stuff for our little island ally and they know it.
For those who may not know or remember from school, here is a little rundown of Taiwan and why it is important as a partner in this region. Baseball remains our common national pastime, but we also have democracy on our side. Taiwan is the largest island of the Republic of China and lies a mere 140 miles across the important straits of Formosa from Mainland China…which still claims Taiwan as a renegade province. The U.S. has important ties with Taipei, much to the chagrin of the People’s Republic of China which still covets those who fled the communist revolution on the mainland.
So…here we are. Two nations with more in common than many realize and at the heart…nine men on a diamond. Tomorrow everything gets rolling with a camp for kids and the first of a three game set. Tonight MLB representatives guaranteed the LA Boys would take 2 of 3, but a good natured spar later in the evening meant Taiwan would claim the same thing.
We will be at the games and will file LiveShots posts, we will stream from the field and also report for Fox News Channel beginning Friday afternoon!
WE ARE OFF
Baseball or bàngqiú 棒球……that is the question as we prepare to board a plane with the Los Angeles Dodgers and memebers of Major League Baseball headed to watch two nations battle with their national pastimes. Baseball may have started here, but for years it has been all the rage and once the refuge in Asia.
With Ichiro in Seattle and Matsui in New York, some of Asia’s biggest players have come here to play ball, but Japan isn’t the only hot bed and hasn’t been. South Korea, Taiwan and even on the mainland, baseball get’s massive crowds. The Dodgers are continuing baseball’s push to become a global sport filled with international support and hope trips like this only build the brand. We’ve seen the NBA, NFL and even the NHL head across the pond on either side, baseball continues to do the same and Asia is seen as the bounty for a massive/growing/fanatical sports base.
So off we go to Taiwan on a charter flight form spring training. We will be posting in depth blogs here, behind the scene’s pictures, video and reports. I’ll also be answering your questions. Play ball…or as they say in Taipei…Kai Qiu!