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
2 weeks in Taiwan so far and I’m finally getting settled in. I have recently moved into my apartment which is located about 15 minutes from the field. Prior to moving in I was staying at a gorgeous hotel called the Kuva Chateau. I’m living in a three bedroom apartment with another player, David Welch. He’s a left-handed pitcher from Australia and had played with the Brewers prior to coming out here.
My last start didn’t go as planned. I pitched against the Elephants, who seem to be the Yankees of Taiwan in the sense of their fan base. Their fans come out in large masses and root on their team. I threw 6 innings, giving up 4 runs and took the loss. I had 2 outs in the 4th inning and somehow gave up 3 runs after that. Just needed to make some better pitches.
This week we are having to play our make up games. When games are rained out or delayed over here, they have to be played on the same day of the week as the original game was scheduled as well as in the same stadium. Usually there is a two week break in between the first and second halves, but we have these make up games.
Today we had a spring training type practice. It consisted of the normal conditioning, fundamentals, base running, bunt defense, and after lunch we had batting practice. With the number of injuries we have currently, the front office staff is allowing for the minor league players to come join our team and play with us. Hopefully they will take advantage of their time, play well, and learn from the others. Our minor league team has some young and exciting players to be on the look out for.
Went to the mall yesterday. Just like any other mall in the world. The only difference is the clothing sizes are very different. For men I don’t believe I could find anything in my size. Even when I arrived and was asked my size for shirts and uniforms, I said large or XL. I was then giving a 3XL shirt which fit like a large. The styles I’ve noticed out here so far are very loud (colorful) shoes and clothing. Young female adults like wearing knee high socks that are the same color or completely different. The biggest trend right now or around town are black “sunglasses/eyeglasses” without any frame in them. So it just looks like a halloween professor costume piece.
Also had a chance to goto Taipei and checked out the Night Market and the electronics market.
Here is a link of a Video from my night in Taipei http://www.twitvid.com/GTBWF
Now onto the fans questions…..
-currently we are on a 5 man rotation, but only play 3-4 games a week, so the pitchers usually have 6-7 days in between starts.
-our teammates embrace american players very well. As much as we are trying to learn new things and techniques, they want to learn from us too.
-hardest and most expensive part being here is getting cabs to and from the field every single day.
-Scooters are everywhere here. I wish I had my 1999 yahama jog here with me. I’m still seeing if I can find a place to rent a scooter or borrow someones around town. anyone that can help I would really appreciate it.
-There are the normal Mcdonalds, subway, KFC (or KLC) over here
-We play at 10-12 different stadiums throughout Taiwan with only 4 teams in the league. If we are the home team at an away stadium, our team brings all of our sponsor banners from our outfield and hangs them at the field. The team store also comes on the road.
-Fans come from all over to watch these games. It would be interesting to know how far some travel to witness these games.
-The tv coverage is done extremely well over here. There are tons of camera angles for any play.
-the routine is very similar to the US for pitchers and in between starts. Its up to you when you want to throw your bullpen. Because theres so much rest between starts, I try to get 2 in during the week.
-conditioning is very important over here and they stress it. Usually before we even stretch we run for 15 minutes. Its extremely hot over here and the extra conditioning will help in the long run.
-they stick with the starters for the most part. Not many pitching changes in the game like winterball. They don’t seem to play the matchups all the time, like I have noticed in the DR or Mexico.
-there is one US umpire over here and I have had him for both of my starts. So far the strike zone has been fair and good. The field conditions are usually good, but the mounds are low and usually get holes in the landing spot after an inning or two.
Thanks as always for reading and sharing your comments and questions. I hope I got to everyones questions. Go Lamigo!
Link from my second game
Link from the first game
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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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There are many cultural differences that take place with baseball over here in Taiwan. Just in my couple of days over here I have noticed many differences of the game of baseball.
There is no national anthem played prior to the games.
Taiwans Gatorade type drink in the dugout is called “Pro-Sweat”, has a gross name but its pretty good.
There have been some variations of sunflowers seeds going around which have a sweet taste, but remember don’t spit them on the field. Only on the ground in the dugout or in a cup.
When the umpires come onto the field they bow to the fans and towards the field
When a pitching change is made, the pitching coach will stay on the field and watch the new pitcher warm up.
Also the pitcher leaving the game usually takes the ball with them, rather than hand it off to the manager.
If you think the battle of the bands between FAMU and Southern was good, you should check out our games. On top of each dugout are drums and trumpet players. Non stop for 9 innings this instruments are thumping and blaring while an M.C. is shouting out cheers for the crowd. Each batter has his own anthem. I find myself whistling these tunes hours after the game is over. They are going to be etched in my brain.
Respect is a huge part of Asian culture. Batters when entering the batters box give a hand signal to the pitcher to ask for a moment to set up and feel comfortable in the box. They also signal the umpire for the same respect out of courtesy.
The players over here love their apparel. They have tons of wrist bands, necklaces, and wear enough protective gear on their elbows and shins to be confused with a catcher while up to bat.
After finishing a game both teams go to their foul line and bow to the crowd and then bow to the opposing team.
Following the game we meet in the locker room and go over the game. During these meetings we all have to stand up and listen to the coaches.
Because of the gamble issue that happened within the league a couple years ago (http://jockpost.com/taiwan-baseball-scandal-1919-black-sox-boy-scouts), no cell phones or computers are allowed to be used in the locker room once you arrive. We also are not allowed to play cards, go to casinos, or play the lottery.
CPBL officials stand around the locker room to make sure no gambling or anything illegal takes place.
Also once you are in uniform and at the field, you can not leave the dugout/locker room. If you leave to goto the office or anywhere in the stadium, you can not return to the game.
Today I noticed how strong the Asian work ethic is. I had always heard about the amount of time they put into practices and I can vouch that it is true. They are very precise with the way they go about their work. We were unable to take BP today, and while I was running I noticed a coach hitting our infielders ground balls along the warning track to make sure they got their work in. I never have seen that in the states. They just pay attention to detail and strive to do very well. I commend them for that and hope I can learn some of their ways.
Tonight we lost to the Elephants 9-5. We play them tomorrow, and then have a three game series agains the Lions. I’m scheduled to pitch on Sunday.
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So the first day of spring training is in the books. We had physicals a couple days ago which sometimes can be a drag, but this year they went pretty smoothly. Detroit does an amazing job with physicals. They cover ever part of our bodies including dental which is very nice to know that we are completely healthy prior to taking the field.
Today opened up with a 9:30am meeting outside with the entire minor league staff and front office. Mike Rojas and Kevin Bradshaw are leading the way for this years spring training. Pitchers and catchers are broken up into 4-5 groups. We covered bullpens, pick offs, bunt defense, and ground balls. Tomorrow is the dreaded running test. I say dreaded because no one enjoys being timed to do a 300 yard shuttle 3 times at 8am.
I’m very excited for the new regime here in Detroit. There are a ton of new faces for players as well as coaches. Wish me luck. As always thanks for reading and feel free to ask questions or leave comments.
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Spring training 2011 is upon us and I’m sure everyone is just as excited for another amazing baseball season as I am. This off season was not much of an off season because I was playing winterball all over Latin America. Although I think it did physically and mentally prepare me for this upcoming season. I have done all the work I needed in the gym and on the field and I’m ready to throw the pill.
I will be headed up to Lakeland, Florida by the end of this week to join the pitchers and catchers for the start of minor league camp. We have physicals Sunday morning and are full swing into bullpens and PFP on Monday.
Thanks for all the continued support and welcome all new twitter followers. Please use this blog to ask me questions and make comments. I plan to keep a blog once a week while at camp. I love the feedback and want to give back to the fans.
Almost 2 weeks in Mexico and I have already have eaten more tacos than I could ever imagine, but better than that is that I have thrown 9 times as many innings as I did in the Dominican Republic. Also within my time in Mexico the Tigers and I have come to agreements for next season. Detroit thank you for another opportunity.
I have started two games down here to help the Augilas make a playoff push. Both outings started extremely well going for the first 3-4 innings. In both games I seemed to hit a wall in my last inning giving up a couple runs. I think it could be a mix of rustiness and stamina. No excuses though. I need to finish each inning strong as it could always be my last.
This was my first road trip with the team. We had the option of taking a bus 13 hours to Navojoa, Sonora Mexico or flying. To the norm you would think to take the flight, but the flight left at 1am and had two layovers. The guys who flew ended up arriving at the hotel at the same time as the bus. The hotel was a best western type outside motel. Nothing too glamorous, but it did its job for the handful of hours we are in the room. Rule #14 in the hotel handbook was not to drink the water. I figured a hotel with Wi-Fi would have safe drinking water from the faucet. Guessed wrong.
Unlike the US, over here we head over to the field fairly late. The bus rolls out of the hotel around 5:15 for a 7:30 “juego”. We get dressed in our hotel room and head over to the field in uniform like a high school team. The field in Navojoa had an overall good to fair stadium feel. The field was maintained well as were the grandstands. There were only about a couple hundred fans at each game. It was in the 50’s at night while we were there to give them a little slack. The stadium can hold about 6000-9000. The food in the stadium consists of tacos and nachos, of course. There was no “real” locker room. Although the bathroom looked very upgraded by having tile. Not sure who was the genius to put tile in a baseball locker room. Knock, knock baseball players where metal cleats. That’s a liability suit waiting to happen. Everyone kept their bags in the dugout, which made for a tricky way to make it to the field. There was a land-mine of bags everywhere. We took two out of three in the series against them. They are currently in last place and it would have been nice to have swept them.
There has been a wealth of knowledge around the ballpark. Fernando Valenzuela is a character. Picking his brain in my small time here has been priceless. Although I haven’t been taught the screwball yet. Our other pitching coach is Ruben Niebla. He was in the big leagues coaching with the Cleveland Indians last year. His knowledge and energy for the game is amazing. I have been trying to get any competitive advantage I can get by learning from these minds of the game.
We are currently on the bus headed to Hermosillo. They are in first place and this is a very important series for us going forward. We have a day off today (Xmas eve) and play a three game series with a double-header on Sunday. Happy Holidays to all! Wishing everyone a safe and enjoyable Christmas.
Special thank you to Jason Beck for writing a great article. You can see it here http://tinyurl.com/28udjye
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