Take me out to the ball game!

Baseball’s a popular sport in Taiwan, and on Thursday we got out to see a CPBL (Chinese Professional Baseball League) game! There are four teams which rotate play through 12 stadiums across the island. The number of games at each stadium is weighted by population, and Hsinchu’s stadium has 10 scheduled games (out of 240 total) this season. I was really excited for this game, as there won’t be another in town until the end of July.

We watched the Brother Elephants face off against the EDA Rhinos. Whenever the Rhinos come to town, the stadium is packed, because they signed Manny Ramirez for the 2013 season and everyone wants to see him play! Hu Chin-Lung, the first Taiwanese infielder to play in the MLB also plays for the Rhinos, but people seem to be less excited about him.

I missed the first inning due to an evening class, but luckily my school backs onto the stadium, so it didn’t take long to get to the stadium after. The only downside to that setup is trying to teach for 30 minutes while you can hear the crowd roaring! It is very distracting for both the students and the teacher.

The stadium, which seats 10 000, was packed to the brim for the game! Fans are generally divided by allegiance in the infield (you sit on the side with the dugout of your team), and the outfield was filled with Elephants supporters. Each of the 4 teams has a region where they are always the home team: the Elephants are the team of the northern part of the island, while the others are based out of Tainan and Kaohsiung. The atmosphere in the stadium was more like what we experienced in Busan (lots of cheering and noise-making throughout), rather than the North American style of baseball spectating. It is really great to see people have such a good time!

Sadly, I forgot to toss my camera in my bag on the way to class, so I have no pictures of the game. Still, you can have a look at the mural on the outside of the old stadium:

The Hsinchu Baseball Stadium. Photo credit: 象心力

The quality of the game was pretty good. There were a few fumbles here and there, but we were also treated to some tight double plays, including one to close out the game. I definitely got the impression that there is more hitting in this league compared to the MLB (perhaps due to pitching differences), but I think that makes the game a lot more enjoyable to watch. Funnily enough, the only person to really take their time setting up at the plate was Mr. Ramirez. There really wasn’t the kind of cat-and-mouse play with runners on first that is so common in the MLB, and the pitchers didn’t take too long to set up either. The absence of these (sometimes frustrating and boring) aspects of the North American game was really nice. It is fun to see a game played on defensive reactions to hitting, and it was generally done well.

I was wondering what might happen at the 7th inning stretch. It is a tradition not observed in South Korea (who needs to? You’re on your feet cheering for the whole game anyway!), so I figured it would be the same here. Imagine my surprise, when I heard a roaring rendition of “Take me out to the ball game” start up behind me as soon as the top of the 7th came to a close. I turned around and saw there were 5 Taiwanese guys singing their hearts out! The rest of the stadium didn’t seem to care, but I joined in.

The final score: 4-3 for the home team Elephants. The final verdict: a fun time, and a great deal for $100 NTD (less than $5)! I would definitely go again.

Bonus video: Not from this game, but Manny hit a 2-run homer in the 11th inning to win a game against the Elephants in Hsinchu on May 23….