If you’re like me I’ve always thought of baseball as being a uniquely American sport. They seem to have the monopoly on the whole game, and even host the World Series. However, the only non-American teams allowed to play are from Canada.
I had heard that Japan has a pretty big baseball scene, but I wasn’t prepared to learn that Taiwan and its people are baseball fanatics. When I took a trip there recently I was able to see first hand just how much the Taiwanese people love this sport.
In the Beginning
Taiwan’s love affair with baseball started as early as 1906, when the island was a Japanese colony. School teams would compete against each other, but the players were primarily Japanese.
In the 1920’s the Taiwanese people began to play as well, and after the second World War and the expulsion of the Japanese, Taiwan kept the game alive.
Taiwanese Baseball Today
Today, Taiwan has 11 professional teams and two leagues. The teams hail from all parts of the country and are fiercely supported in their home cities or towns. While accusations of game fixing have slightly marred the sport with scandal, people around the country attend the games in droves.
While many of the players are loyal to their teams, some of Taiwan’s best players have left the country over the years, and have gone on to play for professional teams in Japan, Canada, and the United States.
When I was in Kaohsiung last year I decided to attend a game. I didn’t really have any idea what to expect, but when I got to the stadium I found it to be packed. Families with children, groups of rowdy guys and girls, and sedate older people lined the stands, waving listlessly the flags of their favorite team in the thick, humid air.
I bought a cold beer and found my seat, expecting this to be just like any other baseball game in any other part of the world. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Baseball fans in America are loyal to the point of almost being weird about it, but the Taiwanese are completely different. My notion that Asians are quiet, sedate, orderly people went right out the window when the game started. They become frenzied fans, and the screaming that I heard sounded more like a rock concert than a baseball game.
How I made it through nine innings I’m not sure, but the Kaohsiung Rhinos won the game, and it was clear that a celebration was in order. The group of college students that had been sitting behind me invited me to join them for post-game beers and street food, and I happily agreed. I spent the rest of the evening and some of the early morning hours drinking beer and wandering around this amazing city with my new friends.
If you have a chance to visit Taiwan, I’d recommend that you do it. If you’re a baseball fan you’re likely to find a situation like the one that I did. Take in the game but be sure to make friends with the people around you.
For me, that was the real score.
Photo credit to BluXGraphics via Flickr