Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Random Asianess: Taiwanese Baseball

Taiwan has a professional baseball league and this week we had an opportunity to see a game. There are four professional teams in Taiwan: The Brother Elephants, Lamigo Monkeys, Sinon Bulls and the President, 7-11 Lions. The team names are made up of the sponsoring company name and the team name. The game we saw was the Mother’s Day promotional game between the Brother Elephants and the Sinon Bulls. We are all big Elephant fans over here.

Baseball in Taiwan began in 1989 with the formation of the Chinese Professional Baseball league. In 1996 the Taiwan Major League was formed. But in 1998 there was a betting scandal reminiscent of the Chicago Black Sox, where members of the team conspired with gangsters to “throw” the games. This led to a huge decrease in game attendance the subsequent merging of the two leagues. The game has recovered and the attendance has begun to climb in recent years, although, it reminds me of single A baseball in the US.

A Taiwanese Stadium is not nearly as large as a Major League Baseball stadium in the US. In fact, it reminded me of minor league stadiums like the stadium where the 66ers play in San Bernardino. The stadium was clean and modern. The particular stadium where we went the home of the Lamigo Monkeys was built only two years ago. Our seats were in the sixth row, right behind first base and cost $300 NTD (about $10.00 USD)

The game was well played and pretty exciting. The Elephants led off with a 4 run lead (4-0) but finished the game with a score of 9 to 6. They loaded the bases in fourth and fifth innings and lost a few runs but managed to get out of the inning.

Foreigner Orlando Roman opened the game but after two pitching changes they finished with their closer, an American named Ryan Cullen (ERA 1.95 34 saves).

One of the interesting things about Taiwanese baseball is the fan interaction. In the US we are used to people yelling and clapping and doing things to rally the team but it is mostly an individual effort. We might do the wave but clapping and yelling and cheering are usually a “do your own thing” endeavor. In Taiwan, there is a group of cheerleaders, not young women, wearing not quite enough clothing, these cheerleaders were mostly men and they used drums, trumpets, flags and microphones to coax a response from the audience.

As you enter the stadium you can purchase a pair of clappers. These are hollow plastic tubes that can also be used to shout through. When clapped together they are surprisingly noisy. The drummer sets a rhythm and the audience claps along. Or one man will shout through the microphone and the audience will repeat, both words and cadence. Flags are waved at every out, and every hit. At the end of every inning the ball is tossed into the audience.

Food sold at the stadium is a little different. We saw people eating Hot Dogs, of course, but Taiwanese Hot Dogs are what I would call the “AntiDodger Dog.” They are bland and flavorless and served with catsup only. They also serve the traditional Taiwanese lunchbox, of Rice and Chicken, and some pretty delicious looking Ice Cream with fruit or chocolate/nuts toppings.

Photos:  Chris & Brenda Banducci

Other posts you may be interested in:

Traveling with M13: Custom Scooters of Taiwan
Local Color: The Colors of Yingge
Random Asianess:  Oh Sure, Now We Decorate

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