The winterball season has begun and is under way. With Mexico and Venezuela opening earlier last week, and the Dominican this past weekend, the Latin swag is out in full effect. Batters taking their time to get to the batters box to hear their latest walk-out song which is a usually catchy reggaeton beat and pitchers taking the ever so long walk from the bullpens. Batters are itching at the bit to have the token home-run so that they can stare at it as if they are shocked and in awe that they hit it. Act like you been there before. I have to say that because I’m a pitcher. Of course the pitchers add their flare too by pumping up the crowd on a strikeout in any situation. It may be a blow out game where we are boat racing a team, but for the pitcher his moment to shine is to end an inning on a strikeout. And of course the crowd gets into it and screams out “Ponche” (strikeout). Bullpen pitchers also add to the festivities. They may walk all the way from the bullpen or do some ridiculous John Rocker esqe sprint. With all of that there is also a lot of praising the big man above and flaunting the biggest chains and earrings. One would think we are filming a Puff Daddy video that day at the ballpark. All in all it is a part of the culture and the players feed off the fans excitement and play the game the right way.
I’m sure you have heard the saying its not how you look its how you play. Well that saying can go different ways in winterball. Of course winning is the key priority down here because it is such a short season and no one wants to lose. But once the uniforms are handed out in the locker room you would think we were running a seamstress and altering school. Players find anyway to alter their pants to fit big or over the shoes. Jerseys are traded for guys who want their lucky number. Money can be involved or chores for a jersey number. A player may have to bring in another guys bats for a month or get him food.
We opened up the season at home this week against the Cardinales. Showing up to the field on opening day down here is something special. Fans cars have flags and chalk written all over them rooting us on. Tigres Campeon, is the overall chant throughout the city. The fresh smell of arepas, pepitos, and ball park food surrounds the atmosphere. Everyone is decked out in team apparel. Local street vendors sell Tigres jerseys, hats, and anything else you can think of. Tickets for opening day sold out in 2 minutes. Our stadium holds 19,000 people.
The worst part of winterball is batting practice. Instead of having 3 groups for 45 minutes like we do in the United States, we have 5 groups which seem to last an eternity. It seems like everyone takes their cuts, and then someones entourage shows up and takes some hacks. We are out their forever, but its a part of the game and our position players need it to get loose and ready. I’m just complaining because I haven’t been used to doing the bucket for shagging and like most winterball countries balls are like black gold and we don’t have many, so refilling the throwers bucket can get very exhausting.
We ended the opening day game off in a sensational fashion. Hector Gimenez hit a walk off homer with a 3-2 count in the bottom of the 9th. Our stadium erupted. Fans threw their cups up in the air, and mists of soda and beer rained on everyone. Currently we are 3-2 and the team is over in Maragarita. I did not make the trip because I’m not throwing in that series. The team left today out of Valencia in a chartered flight. They will be back late Wednesday night. I’m back on the hill Friday against the Tiburones in Caracas.
Here is some video footage of the pre-game music class that goes on in the locker room. Click Here!
The foreign players on our team are
Lastings Milledge OF
Deunte Heath P
Darin Downs P
Zach Segovia P
Joe Benson OF
Vinnie Rotino 3b/C
Sergio Perez P
Rich Rundles P
This is the field at Magallanes in Valencia prior to my start this past Sunday.
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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.
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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.