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Monday, October 12, 2009

Take me out to the ball game - 野球, Taiwan-style

Leaving things to the last minute, as usual. Last week, we went to the beach for the first time this year on what turned out to be probably the last hot day of the year. Today, we took in our first baseball game of the 2009 Chinese Professional Baseball League 中華職業棒球大聯盟 season, which not so coincidentally was also the next-to-last scheduled regular-season game to be played in T'aichung (Taichū) 台中 this season. "Better late than never" seems to be the Kaminoge family motto!


 
Following a long delay in finding a parking spot, we arrived at the old Taichung Baseball Field 台中野球場 in the top of the second inning to find the Brother Elephants 兄弟得エレファンツ and the hometown Sinon Bulls 興農ブルズ tied 2-2. Why the Bulls continue to play there, and not at the newer, more modern Taichung Intercontinental Baseball Stadium, is a mystery to me. Though it dates from 1935, we're not talking Fenway Park or Wrigley Field here. Instead, the Taichung Baseball Field is more reminiscent of those 1930's WPA-built stadiums still used by Appalachian League Rookie-level teams. The seats are too small, sight-lines are blocked in places, and the whole edifice reeks of decaying utilitarian concrete (plus the hot dogs were awful). Still, you're never far from the action on the field, and the crowd, though small this afternoon, was in a good mood.

I was there to support the local Bulls (and Amber also said she liked the team in white, Sinon, better than the team in yellow, Brother), but my wife has always been a fan of the T'aipei (Taihoku) 台北-based Elephants, and so we sat along the third-base line with the other Brother supporters. Baseball games in Taiwan are similar to those in Japan in that there are organized cheering sections, but here they assemble along the first-base (home) and third-base (visitor) sides of the diamond, unlike the Japanese 応援団, which sit on opposite sides of the outfield bleachers. Amber asked us to buy her an Elephants noisemaker, and proceeded to start exploring its sonic capabilities.


It wasn't a good contest for Elephants fans. Soon after we arrived, Sinon scored seven runs in the bottom of the fourth inning to break the game wide open. Brother's pitcher, an American import named Mike Smith (formerly of the Toronto Blue Jays and Minnesota Twins), was nailed for nine runs before finally being removed. To my surprise, Amber was able to follow the score by looking at the scoreboard - not bad for someone still more than three months shy of her fourth birthday. I contented myself with a Blue Girl beer.

At the end, the scoreline read: Sinon Bulls 11 runs, 17 hits and 2 errors; Brother Elephants 5 runs, 8 hits and 3 errors. Despite all the run-scoring, the game was over in a brisk 2 hours and 42 minutes. Professional baseball in Taiwan will never be confused with the major leagues, let alone Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball 日本野球機構, and it's had to deal with far too many cases of match-fixing and gambling, but a day at the ballpark can be a lot of fun, and at NT250 ($7.75/¥700) for a ticket, it's certainly affordable. If the Bulls can move into the newer stadium, which has plenty of parking and is only a short drive from our home, perhaps we'll take Amber out to the ballgame more often next year.
 

UPDATE
Here's the report of the game from the Taipei Times http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/sport/archives/2009/10/13/2003455849:

"Seven big runs in the fourth by the Sinon Bulls erased an early deficit as they topped the Brother Elephants 11-5 at the Taichung Municipal Baseball Stadium on Sunday to deal the slumping Elephants their fifth straight loss. Starter Lin Keh-chien 林克謙 was the biggest beneficiary of the seven-run fourth as it gave the rookie a 7-3 lead, allowing manager Hsu Sheng-ming 徐生明 to keep him in the game long enough for his 10th win of the season despite Lin giving up back-to-back homers in the first. Cheng Da-hong 鄭達鴻, Chen Chih-wei 陳志偉 and Wilton Veras ウィルトン・ベラス (formerly of the Boston Red Sox) connected for three hits each to account for seven of the Bulls’ 11 runs."

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