Being in 3 different countries this year hasn’t stopped me from going to one more. I arrived to Venezuela on Thursday evening around 8pm to play for the Tigres de Aragua. Deunte Heath was on my plane so we were able to catch up during the plane ride and find our drivers once we arrived. Deunte plays for the Chicago Whitesox in AAA and attended the University of Tennessee. The ride to Maracay took about 3 hours from the airport. Its only about an hour and a half away but the traffic and construction prolonged it. While we stood in traffic, locals were in the street selling coffee, snacks, and phone car chargers.
We arrived at the Hotel Pipo which will be housing us for our duration here in Venezuela. The hotel is extremely nice and the pool is like a mini waterpark. Many locals come during the weekends with their kids to play at the pool which has 3 separate pools and water slides.
Once we arrived to the field we were greeted by the players and coaching staff. Buddy Bailey is the manager, and my friend from the Detroit Tigers, Greg Sabat, is the pitching coach. Everything in the clubhouse is run very professional. The clubhouse staff makes sure we get all brand new gear and they take care of cleaning our clothes and shoes. This winterball experience so far tops any of the other countries I have played in. Just the professionalism and way they go an extra step to make the import players feel comfortable means a lot.
The team has been having their spring training practices and tryouts for a week now. The coaching staff still needs to decide on final roster spots. My second day here I threw 3 innings to get my work in for the regular season. Everything felt good and went well. Following that practice we had a team caravan throughout the city for a parade in honor of the opening of the city and our team. This was a special experience to witness. Thirty plus teammates and their entourages jumped on the back of this huge truck and drove down the streets of Maracay. Fans swarmed the streets in Tigres apparel and cheered us on. This event went from 4pm-9pm.
Lastings Milledge and I got tired of being on the truck so we took to the streets to walk and interact with the fans. Our team security does an amazing job for us as well. Lastings was here last year and had a great season and the fans love him . Fans hounded him for pictures and autographs as if he was in a boy band. At one point security was getting overwhelmed by the mass of people and made us get back onto the trucks.
I’m really excited to get the season going here. The fans seem to be very interested in the game and the team. We open up at home on Wednesday October 12 against the Cardinales. I will try to find if you can watch the games online somewhere.
Thanks for all the support and checking out my blog. As always please leave comments and ask questions.
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The month of August is considered to be Ghost month in Taiwan. There are many rules to follow to ward off bad luck and evil spirits. You are not supposed to open umbrellas indoors, go into the ocean, leave your shoes outside, hang your laundry up to dry at night, and whistle at night. To keep these spirits away many locals will pray outside of their homes and businesses. They set up a table with certain food and other items and a large metal tin to burn “fake money”. This is a part of the traditional and ritual of prayer. When our team does a wish luck ceremony at the field we have a very similar setup.
My luck with ghost month has not seemed to be on my side on and off the mound. Before my first start in August, my scooter engine blew up on me and I had to buy a completely new engine. Before my second start my scooter was towed from in front of my apartment. Then most of my starts in August always had one bad inning in them. And to top it off I was released by the team.
I was notified by my translator of my release around 1am via text mail. We knew someone was going to be the odd man out, because the team was activating Shane Youman. I came to the field the next day to sign all of my termination papers, get my things from my locker, and say my good byes. I had a great time playing for Lamigo. My teammates were an amazing group to play with. They loved the game and always were laughing and having a good time. I wish Lamigo the best going forward and making it to the playoffs. I will be following their progress online.
Questions from the comments
– I like to use a lot of rosin because it is so HOT and HUMID in Taiwan. My hands get to slippery and I need the rosin to dry up the sweat. The rosin they give us is not the same as in the US. So I have to use more of it.
– Once released from a team over here, you can not join another team in the league for 2 years. You can only join the team you played for prior to the 2 year ban.
– I think I am going to let the hair grow a little more.
– Some unforgettable things are the drumming and chants during the games. Night Markets in Taipei, smell of stinky tofu, fans and all of their signs.
My next step is to head home and give my body some rest. I’m going to talk with my agent about playing winterball in possibly Venezuela, Mexico, or the Dominican Republic. I will keep you all posted where I end up.
Finally, I want to tell all my friends, fans, and supporters from Taiwan thank you so much for all of your support and comments in my blog. During my time in Taiwan you have all being so kind and welcoming. You have made my experience here very enjoyable and I do hope to come back to play or visit your beautiful country. Your excitement and passion for the game of baseball can not be described with words. You all are so dedicated to your teams over here and I had a blast playing in front of crowds like that. I will miss Taiwan and hope to be back playing soon.
Nothing ceases to amaze me here in the Chinese Professional Baseball League. This past weekend in Pingtong we were playing Elephants in a close game. It was about the middle of the 4th inning when the Elephants manager took a visit to the mound to make a pitching change. The manager signaled down towards the bullpen for the lefty import, Tyler Lumsden. Tyler had only thrown two warm up pitches, and his teammates in the bullpen signaled he wasn’t ready. Since the manager made the signal already, Tyler was called into action. During his warmups, the coaches realized he wasn’t loose to throw and needed to buy a way to get him more warm up pitches. They then came up with a plan to randomly act like the 3rd baseman was hurt and needed to be stretched out. While all of these shenanigans are going on, Tyler seems to get about fifteen warm up pitches in. Here is the clip of the video. It starts at the 43 second mark. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CfiRzFL3jsI&feature=channel_video_title
We ended up winning Sunday 3-1. I came into the game in the 6th inning to throw in my first relief appearance of the year. We were down in the bullpen due to our blow out of a game the day before where we lost 18-2.
Prior to coming over here to Taiwan you hear many stories from former players about the gambling issues the league has had. There are stories online and in the news from prior seasons about players, politicians, and book keepers who all were involved. It is really sad to see how it can tarnish the league and the fan support. There used to be many more teams in the league, and I believe that the gambling has affected it because now there are only four teams. In just my couple of months here I have not noticed anything weird in which gambling would be involved. I think the league has done a great job in cleaning up the past issues. There are CPBL officials all over the stadium and in and around the locker room to monitor any suspicious activity. We are not allowed to use cell phones, computers, or any other electronics once we arrive to the stadium as well. This limits the communication lines for anyone trying to make any bets or give out information. The only thing that I find a little over the top is that we are not allowed to play cards in the locker room. So no Spades, Euchre, poker, or blackjack. They don’t want to associate any type of gambling, including cards I guess. Hopefully by cleaning up this issue the league can grow and expand to bring more teams back with the amount of stadiums the country has to offer.
Questions from the Blog
1. Do you speak any Mandarin Chinese? What words have you learned so far?
I have a cheat sheet on my phone for most of the usual/common sayings for me to get around town. It includes numbers, taxi instructions, and shopping for food tips.
2. Who, out of the import players, speaks Chinese the best in your team? Please rank the Chinese level of the foreign players according to your knowledge. (And including you!)
Steve Hammond speaks the best Chinese, Ken Ray is next, and I’m in last just because I’ve only been here a couple of months.
3. Do you speak any Taiwanese? Have you learned any course words?
I have learned only about ten Taiwanese words. Most of them are just common phrases or taxi instructions. (left, right, straight, stop)
4. Have you gained or lost weight after you’ve arrived in Taiwan and started playing? Will you keep gaining or losing weight?
I think I have gained some weight being over here so far. I think I put on some bad weight at first because I didn’t know where to go to eat, so I ended up at Mcdonalds or some other fast food joint. Luckily I have figure out some of the local food places and we have a really nice gym in our stadium that we get to use prior to games.
This week we are home in Taoyuan on Tuesday and Thursday against the Sinon Bulls and on back on the road in Kaoshiung versus the Lions on the weekend. Here are some pictures of the food around town that I didn’t have a chance to post in my “food” blog last week. Please continue to comment, leave questions, and share the blog with your friends. Thanks as always for the support and taking the time to read it.
Many people in the United States when they think of scooters, think about driving one in Key West or Hawaii along the beach and park and drink alcoholic beverages with umbrellas in them. That is the complete opposite thought of scooters over here in Taiwan. Scooters in Taiwan are a way of life. They provide transportation for individuals, families, and supplies. Just when I think I have seen it all over here something new pops up. I have seen 3 people on a 1 and 2 person scooter. I have seen infants as passengers, many elderly drivers, and workers transporting large gas canisters on the back of them. The other day when I thought there was a wreck in the middle of the street, it wasn’t, it was a scooter who had too many cardboard boxes that fell off and made a mess in the intersection.
Scooters seem to always have the right of way when it comes to the road laws. There usually is a designated lane on the right of the road for scooters, but many of them weave in and out of traffic. From speaking with local players, they tell me that cars must give the right of way to all scooters and are liable for any accidents. Driving on these roads with the amount of scooters and cars can be pretty scary. Drivers will just pull out of side streets without looking and expect cars to stop or move out of the way. Scooters will drive on the other side of the road against on coming traffic to get to the traffic light quicker. The hardest part of owning a scooter is trying to find parking for it. There are designated spots for scooters, but with the amount of them here it becomes very tough to park “legally”. If you make your “own” spot, you can be towed and they will mark on the street with chalk where your scooter was towed. Hopefully it doesn’t rain and wash away the chalk or you will never find your scooter.
Luckily with all of the traffic and aggressive driving scooter drivers must wear helmets.
Big congratulations to Yo-Yo from the Lamigo Monkeys for winning the Homerun Derby during the All-Star game.
Our manager gave us Friday and Saturday off for the All Star break. Just got home from our Sunday workout with the minor league team. Day off tomorrow then practice Tuesday and games Thursday through Sunday. Come check us out. We will be in Taichung for most of the week.
Probably headed back into Taipei tomorrow. Yesterday I checked out the night market in Shilin off the MRT red line. The food there looked delicious and smelled amazing. The fruits were so colorful and fresh. I just need some help identifying what everything is. Also if you see me or one of the other imports in the streets, come up to us and say hi. We love interacting with local fans and will sign an autograph or take a picture. I noticed some people starring at me the other day on the MRT. I don’t bite, I’m friendly.
Thanks as always for reading and sharing my blog with others. Thanks to my Taiwanese fans for translating my blog and posting it in your forums.
PS – There was a lot of talk about my comments last week about the all-star game voting and I think it got lost in translation. In no way was I disrespecting the player or envious of him. It was only my outlook of how the voting for the all star game worked. I found it interesting that only the fans vote, and not the managers, players, or media.
Please comment and leave feedback.
For my US fans, here is the link to my statistics. I know it can be tough to find them online or even understand them.
So far 39.1 inns 2.74 ERA 22k’s 9 bb http://www.cpbl.com.tw/personal_Rec/pbat_personal.aspx?Pno=A0B2&Gno=01&Role=2&pbatpage=1
Due to the rain we were forced to practice indoors. Literally indoors taking ground balls on a marble floor and getting treatment on top of our ice cooler.
I love the Panda Jeremy Scott Adidas shoes! I’m jealous Taiwan and Asia gets so many special sneaker releases. If anyone owns a sneaker store or has friends who do, please contact me. I’m a huge sneaker collector and would love to get in contact with more people in Taiwan.
Last night prior to my start in Tainan against the Lions (sorry had the Elephants before made the correction now), I’m about to warm up on the field and noticed something is wrong with one of my cleats. I look down and see that my metal spikes are about to come off. For those of you who don’t know many Asian type cleats are interchangeable and have screws and metal plates with the cleats on them. My cleat was missing two screws and the metal frame was dangling. I guess I didn’t realize after each start you should tighten up the screws because they can come loose. This all happened 20 minutes before the game. I scrambled around the locker room looking for someone who one had the special tool to unscrew them or some extra screws. Luckily, our equipment manager Ashton found the tool. Unfortunately, that was all that he found. I had to now remove the middle cleat plate from both shoes to be worn evenly. This was extremely awkward at first when I started to jog and get loose, but I guess it could have been worse.
The game wasn’t one of my better games. We lost 4-3 and I threw 5.1 innings. I left the game tied at 2. The most amazing part of the game was the rain delay. As typhoon type rain came down in the top of the 8th inning, the field crew runs on the field and covers the mound and home plate. I then noticed them putting 10 x 10 foot tarps over each base individually. I turn to Steve Hammond and ask where is the big tarp to cover everything. He replies you are looking at them. I only wish I was able to get video or pictures of the amount of rain that came down and was sitting on the field. I honestly would have bet $100 that there was no chance we could play especially after an hour of non stop rain and with the baselines, second base, short stop, and third base completely exposed. After the rain stopped about 30 kids ran onto the field with sponges and soaked up the field. I laughed a bit seeing these guys with small sponges trying to work, because there was so much water. I have to give it to them though, they worked very hard and somehow we got the rest of the game in.
Notes from the week
– Reminder you can not hit a batter who has hit a homerun in that game. If you do you are ejected. That happen to one of our guys last week. Worst part was it was on a bad slider in which he lost control of it. But rules are rules I guess.
– If you hit a batter in the head you are ejected. This happened last night with our pitcher. I believe the hitter is doing fine and sustained no serious injuries.
– With all of these pitcher ejections, I don’t think you have to leave the dugout or get fined.
– The All-Star game is this weekend in Kaohsiung. The entire team is based on fan votes. There is some starter going with a 5.50 ERA and a losing record. But must be a fan favorite.
– A lot of friends have asked me about some of the equipment out here. The best place to get custom gloves, arm guards, and leg guards is http://www.taiwanbaseball.com.tw/ Ask for my friend Derick. They are extremely professional and the workmanship of the gloves is the best. You can pretty much customize any part of the glove. They ship worldwide.
Thanks for reading and sharing my blog. Thank you to my USA followers and new Taiwanese followers. I hope that I am still keeping you entertained and ask that you please leave comments, questions, or suggestions. I love reading your feedback.
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The opening to the 2nd half of the season, or “lower half” as it is known by the locals in the locker room, has started real well for the Lamigo Monkeys. We opened up 8-2. We won 7 games in a row, until tonight where we were “boat raced” by the Elephants. Our starting pitching along with our hitting has really come together. Although we are still missing our two superstar hitters, some players are taking advantage of their time on the field and making the best of it. They are making great plays in the field as well as hitting in clutch situations.
Once again made a stop into Taipei on the off day. Finally got to check out all the sneaker stores I’ve been waiting to find. I met a Brooklyn born Korean store owner of Born Trouble in Ximen named Andrew. He gave me the exclusive tour of all the sneaker and clothing shops around Ximen. His store is just a month old, but has a lot of unique street wear that is only available in the US. Please be sure to check out his blog and store here.
-The gatorade that we drink at the field is called Pocari sweat. Its like a gatorade ice flavor
-Most players do not wear cups here. I have no idea why, but doesn’t make sense to me.
-The cleats that are used here are mostly patent leather and have a different spike pattern than those in the US
-The cheerleaders are only at our home games and only on the weekend
-I finally had the suction cup treatment done to me today. Hopefully I don’t bruise too badly.
-The MVP of the game is supposed to by a fruit type drink for the entire team the next day. Steve Hammond supplied us with a watermelon drink on Sunday.
-Garbage trucks drive around playing ice cream truck music. I was saddened when I rushed out of my apartment one of my first weeks here to get a snowcone, and was greeted by a smelly garbage truck.
-The managers do not meet with the umpires prior to the game to exchange line up cards or discuss ground rules.
-Supposedly from what I heard, umpires here are rated each game, and can be fined or punished for making incorrect calls.
Thanks for checking out the blog. Sorry for the short post. Not much to detail this week other than we have been winning which is always nice. Please comment and leave any questions in any language. I want to hear back from you all and make the blog more interactive.
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The first half gets under way tonight in Chayi against the Elephants. When I joined the team in late May we were a couple games out of first place. Once June came around we had a lot of injuries and went on a bad losing streak. I believe we only won 4-5 games in June. I’m glad that the season is split into halves. It gives our guys hope and a fresh start to go forward trying to win a championship.
This past week I went back into Taipei, this time with my “physio” athlete trainer Patrick Hung. Patrick is one of two athletic trainers on the team who take care of the entire team. I told “patty-cake”, as the foreigners call him, to show me parts of Taipei a normal tourist wouldn’t think to go. We started on the red line of the MRT and headed to Guandu. There was a magnificent temple there where many locals come to pray. I wanted to take video to show the act of worship here, but I did not because I didn’t want to be disrespectful to anyones privacy during worship. It was very interesting though. There are individual rooms and statues for different types of worship. People will burn incense and bow and pray to their respective statue for certain help. Fruits, food, and other perishable goods are brought to the temple to show thanks. They also burn faux money in a fireplace for prayer.
Our next stop was to a natural preserve which was a huge mangrove park. There were crabs everywhere. These crabs were special and had one large claw and one small one. We then headed to Danshui which was like a large daytime street market. The air was filled with fresh cooked food ranging from pork, chicken, and squid. Many kids roamed around the boardwalk and played carnival style games. Ice cream seemed to be the biggest seller there. Everyone had cones with multi-colored ice cream over a foot tall.
We then jumped onto a ferry and boated over to Bali. We rented bikes and rode about 10 miles to Shihsanhang. There was an amazing museum there which gave a rich history of the area and architecture. There was a lot of artifacts from the aborigines, which helped cultivate the area we were in.
This past week the Monkeys as a team visited a temple to take part in a ceremony to wish us luck going forward with the season. I’m hoping for less rain. We were rained out for four days straight last week trying to get our final make up game in.
This weekend we had a three game series with the Elephants. They finished the first half playing extremely well and are looking to make a push in the second half as are we. In our first game Ken Ray threw a complete game, but was the tough luck loser as the Elephants scored on a safety squeeze. He only gave up three hits in the game. We lost Friday 1-0.
Steve Hammond took to the mound on Saturday in Kaoushung and threw a gem. He went the distance and threw a nine inning shutout for us. We won 1-0.
On Sunday it was my turn to try to compete with our starters magnificent starts. I threw eight innings giving up two runs and we won 7-2. Our hitters gave me a lot of support with a handful of home-runs. Our defense was great behind me and my catcher called a great game. It was a huge team win especially to take two out of three games on the road. Thanks to all the fans for coming out to all the games. It really makes playing in front of them very exciting. They are cheering non-stop. I apologize for not being able to sign too many autographs after the game. Our team makes us get on the bus as soon as possible so that we can get on the road since we had a five hour drive back. We truly love all of your support, cheers, and signs.
Please share my blog with all your friends and fans. Feel free to ask questions or leave comments. I’m very excited for the second half and to help our team make it to the playoffs.
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Highlights from my last game Click HERE