Baseball in Taiwan
This past year, while in Taiwan, I had the opportunity to go and watch a Taiwanese professional baseball game. It was a lot of fun to see how baseball is watched and played in Taiwan, and marvel at some of the differences.
Baseball enjoys a fair amount of popularity in Taiwan. The success of Chien-Ming Wang for the New York Yankees has really made Major League Baseball a hot topic in Taiwan. Or at least, it has made Chien-Ming Wang a hot topic. You see a lot of Yankee paraphernalia and Wang posters around the country, and every nightly newscast will have news of Wang if he pitched that day. His less-successful counterpart (both are from the same city and the same school) on the Los Angeles Dodgers, Hong-Chih Kuo, is much less popular.
We went to see a game involving the La New Bears versus the Chinatrust Whales. We were in Taiwan at the end of the baseball season, so we watched a makeup game, making up for a game that had been rained out earlier in the year. Because it was a makeup game, the stands were practically empty.
The first thing you notice is that each team has a band, which serves as a cheerleading section. During each player's at bat, the band for the batting team will lead the crowd in chants for a hit. I quickly learned the Chinese word for hit, "Anda," as "Anda, anda, Chen Chin-Feng!" is a very popular chant. The band is very dedicated, and their enthusiasm never flagged, even though the crowd was sparse. I'm not sure if the band is paid by the team, but our guess was that they are volunteers.
The other thing you notice after a while is that in Taiwan, the fans are much younger and predominantly female. Although nothing like pop stars in popularity, the baseball players attract the same kind of fans -- younger girls and women. Of course, in America, baseball is predominantly watched by middle-aged men. Obviously these are gross generalizations, but in broad strokes they are true.
The stadium itself, Chengching Lake Baseball Field near Kaoshiung, was very nice and very clean. It was smaller than an American Major League stadium, but was brand new and had all the amenities.
The team name, La New Bears, reveals that in Taiwan, teams are named for their corporate sponsors, not their home towns. La New is a big shoe company based in Taiwan.
In all, we had a blast. I even won a spiffy baseball in a random drawing as we walked into the stadium.
Published on 11/30/07