Friday, May 2, 2008

Baseball in Taiwan

I had heard a little bit about baseball in Taiwan from my parents and they saw something about it on a travel show. The way they talked about it I thought it was something that I wanted to experience while in Taiwan. On arriving in Taiwan one of the first things I noticed was a number of people wearing New York Yankees shirts with the name Wang on the back. Walking around in Taipei it seemed like there was baseball on about every TV screen that I saw and it was usually the Yankees. Even though I enjoy baseball I do not follow it really and had to look on the Yankees webpage to find the profile of Wang. He has some really impressive stats for the past 3 years and is doing really well this year also. He is from Taipei and is really famous in Taiwan and for all I know the US also. You have to know a country is crazy about baseball when a little league team is on the country's $500 bill.

I ask at the hostel that I was staying at about the Taiwan baseball league and the guy did not seem to know anything about it. I bought a Taiwan paper that was in English and there was a story in the sports section about a game but no real info on schedule or even where the teams are from but at least I had the name of 2 teams. I did some searches on the internet and found the site of CPBL which I think stands for China Professional Baseball League. The problem was that all the info was in Chinese. I went to the tourist information office and even though the lady I was talking to did not seem to know anything about the league she pulled up the website and found the date and time of the next games in Taipei and gave me the bus information to get to the stadium.

I went to 2 games while in Taipei and saw the China Trust Whales play the La New Bears. The Whales won the first game and the 2nd game was a blow out with the Bears killing the Whales by 22 to 2. The stadium was really empty for both of the games and I am sure it would have been much more fun with a packed stadium. The stadium seemed to be divided with the third base side for the bears and the first base side for the whales. There were drums for each of the teams that would pound to cheer on the team that they supported and a guy with a loud speaker would get the crowd into chants for his team. The fans would also have plastic cones to beat along with the drums and the chants. I found this really interesting to see and sure if the stadium was packed it would be really enjoyable. This picture is from a later game with the Lions playing Te Rex.

At the second game I had someone that worked for the Whales in marketing come and set next to me. He had seen me at the game the night before and was interested to know why a foreigner was coming to a baseball game in Taiwan. It was great to have someone to ask all my questions about the baseball. Here are a few of the things that he cleared up for me. There is a limit of 2 foreigners that can play at a time for each team. The Bears put the names of the foreigners in English on the back of their shirts but the Whales gave the foreigners Chinese names so I couldn’t read their jerseys. The teams do not have home cities and play all over Taiwan. They are just called home for half of their games and away for the other half. The reason he gave me for the crowds being so small was because there has been some scandals to do with betting and game fixing. The most recent was last year and Whales players where involved. The Whales team now is full of rookies because of a house cleaning. There are currently 3 Taiwan players in the MLB with about 30 playing in the US farm teams. There are also about the same number of Taiwan players playing in the Japan. Even though Taiwan is not recognized by a lot of countries or organizations as a country they can compete in the Olympics and will be sending a baseball team to Beijing. I also found it interesting and funny when he told me parents in Taiwan don’t want their children to grow up to play baseball because they think of professional sportsman as dumb.

I enjoyed the games and when I was in Taipei again I attend another game. Before the game I decided to take something to eat with me so went up to a street vendor across the street and wanted to look at what they where selling. The lady did not show me but said one so I answered yes and this is what I got.

I don’t think I would have bought it I would have seen it first but I gave it a try and it was not that bad but I still have no idea what it was. I think it had rice in it and sort of looked like rice held together by tar. I don’t think it tasted like tar but since I have never eaten tar this could be what it taste like.

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