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.
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Highlights from my last game Click HERE
This past week went by fairly quickly although we only had two games at home. Mondays are usually off days in this league. This past week we only had games scheduled for Saturday and Sunday so we practiced at our home stadium Tuesday through Friday. Practice can be very different from the US. We open up with a 10-15 minute run around the warning track. Following that is a team stretch which also includes plyometric work. We then throw with the pitchers while the position players baserun. Once the position players are done running the bases, they get loose, while the pitchers will take ground balls in foul territory along the warning track. There is always something going on. There is no time to waste while at the ballpark. Pitchers will then get their pitcher fielding practice in as well as work cut offs, relays, bunt defenses, and backing up bases. Following all of that we break for lunch and set up for batting practice.
In the US batting practice is always disliked the most by the pitchers because no one enjoys shagging balls for hours. It is a little different here in Taiwan. They have over 300 balls to hit during batting practice which fill up three large crates. They also set up two cages on the field to multitask and get more work in. One side of the mound will be a pitching machine, while the opposite side will be a coach or player throwing live BP. Not many people shag balls because of the amount they have. A handful of pitchers will come out of the locker room in rounds and throw or hit a couple balls towards the middle of the field to help the clubhouse staff pick up the balls at the end.
This past Monday I ventured alone into Taipei. I was a little nervous at first getting around and learning my way, but it ended up being pretty easy. I took a cab over to the high speed rail which got me in to Taipei in 20 minutes. Normally is an hour and a half drive by car. From there I got onto the MRT (local subway) and shot over to the Taipei 101 building. This is the 2nd largest building in the world. The architecture on it is amazing and beautiful. Inside the 101 building is a mall whose stores inside put Miami, New York, and Beverly Hills to shame. Every luxury designer clothing, jewelry, and watch brand is in there. I even found it a little uncomfortable window shopping.
After the mall I shot back on the MRT to the Longshan Temple area. I visited the night market briefly. For those of you not familiar the night markets open up around 4/5pm everyday and can last until late into the night. You can get a ton of fresh cooked seafood and local treats like a carnival. They are all served street style and prepared right in front of you. There are vendors all over selling trinkets, to clothing, to electronics repairs, to knock off hand bags and watches.
My final stop of the evening was in Ximen. This is known as the Soho of Taipei according to my teams owner Justin, and he was correct. When I exited the subway, the lights across the street lit up my eyes. The buildings all had neon and flickering lights. The crowd was a younger group of kids into the latest trends and fashion. I came across a ton of awesome sneaker shops which made me love this area even more. I’m sure I will be back over there to check more of the stores out.
Finally, this week we have our two final make up games from the 1st half. We play Saturday and Sunday against the Elephants. Can’t wait for the 2nd half though. It was pretty cool to see how the fans and teams celebrate here when the Lions clinched the 1st half championship. Hopefully Lamigo will have a strong showing for the 2nd half. I hope to help us do that and we all thank you for the support. Thanks as always for reading and sharing my blog with your friends.
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You can also watch highlights from my last game here
The first half is coming to an end and we are trying to make a push to win to get an early playoff spot. These last three games against the Lions have been very exciting and tough on us. The fans came out and pushed us to perform, but we had some struggles. We ended up getting swept by them. We are currently 4 games back, but have a couple of make-up games to play and gain some ground.
I threw against the Lions last night for my first start in Taiwan. We played in Pingtong, but were the home team. In this league although there are only 4 teams, but we play in about 12 different stadiums around the island. I kind of like that because it allows me to see the rest of the country. Pingtong is located in the south part of the island. When I stepped out of the bus I was greeted by local kids asking for autographs and fans wishing me good luck for my start. I also noticed how extremely hot and humid it was down there. The stadium is fairly old in the sense that the stands were cement seats. Even with the heat the fans filled the seats and the drums and trumpets were ready to go. I felt good and threw well. I ended up going 7 innings, 2 runs (1 might have been earned), 7 hits, and I believe 5 strikeouts. I left the game with us winning 4-2, but we ended up losing 6-4. It was a lot of fun to pitch in this kind of atmosphere. Like I have said in earlier blogs, these fans have such a respect for the game and are always rooting for you.
Here is a picture of my first line up card
Here is the highlight footage of my first game. Thanks to the fan who sent me this link.
Here are some more interesting things I have noticed or seen over here.
-Our cab driver had a karaoke machine in his car. 2 tvs, 2 microphones. Of course when my American teammates and I stepped in the cab, Achy Breaky Heart comes on and the driver hands me the mic.
-After 10pm our “band” is not allowed to beat the drum or play the instruments to pump up the crowd.
-We stayed in dorms when we went down south to play the Lions at CC Lake.
-There is one American umpire over here, who actually was behind the plate for my game
-When we lose we have a team meeting after the game with the manager and coaches to go over the game.
Before we got on the high speed rail I checked out some of the food at the convenient store in the station
For the park and ride system at the rail station they do it a little different. Maybe this is where all the couples come to make out.
Always good to see a picture of our mascot.
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Arrived in Taiwan!
I left on Friday and arrived in Taiwan on Sunday morning at 6am. This past day and a half of traveling has been wild. I left Fort Lauderdale, connected in Houston, flew to Los Angeles, and finally took the 15 hour flight over to Taipei. I was greeted by our translator “Luis” at the airport who was extremely nice and polite. He gave me the low down of the culture of the baseball in Taiwan.
When I arrived at 6am I was told we had a doubleheader at our home stadium. One thing that is different over here compared to the minor leagues is that their doubleheaders are nine innings. I somehow didn’t feel too jetlagged yet, so I came over to the field to meet my new teammates and coaching staff. I signed all my contracts and was given a ton of equipment to supply me for the next 2 years. Our home field is only two years old and is amazing. Its playing surface is pristine and the dugouts are huge. We have indoor batting cages and pitching mounds, as well as a state of the art workout facility under the stadium. The stadiums dimensions are pretty fair and the wind howls across from right to left, which can be beneficial as a pitcher. Their are two tiers and it looks like the stadium can hold around 20,000-25,000 fans. The locker rooms are well maintained and our pre-game spread was delicious dumplings. One were filled with pork and the others were more like a pastry and plain. I’m very excited to try out all the cultural food Taiwan has to offer.
Once we took the field I noticed many similarities of that to winterball. Managers play this game like it is the playoffs. Teams bunt early in the game and try to run. As the game goes on they will also play the matchups and get pitchers going in the bullpen to be ready for certain hitters. The most interesting parts I found so far was that when we score the player who scores runs along the dugout fence and slap hands with our teammates rather than coming into the dugout to be greeted. The other is after the 5th inning there is a 10-15 minute break for the grounds crew to re-paint the lines, batters box, and groom the field. It is like a half time in baseball. It should be interesting to see how pitchers react to this, because they can be cruising throughout the game and then have to wait for the game to resume. This can throw off their rhythm, so they need to focus and know how to be ready once the game resumes. There are some other rules that are different that play into affect. If a batter hits a homerun and the next batter is beaned with a ball, its an automatic ejection. Also if a batter is hit twice in one game, the pitcher is ejected.
I will be posting videos and pictures of sites around town once I get settled into an apartment or hotel. Please feel free to comment and ask questions and share this link with your friends.
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