I got to go to a baseball game in Taoyuan at the Taoyuan International Baseball Stadium, about a 40 minute drive from Taipei, near the international airport!
We got to enjoy the first game of the season rooting for Lamigo Monkeys against the Lions. From my understanding, there are currently 4 major league teams in Taiwan: Monkeys, Lions, Elephants and Rhinos. There used to be more teams but because of quite a few fixing scandals 5 teams were cut from the major leagues: Dragons, Tigers, Eagles, Whales, and T-REX (I would have loved to cheer for that team just for the name!)
There is a minor league as well, but I’m not very familiar with how many teams or how they work with respect to the major league.
We arrived and passed through 3 security checks. The first one was before the entrance to the stadium, the next was for a free pair of sunglasses bearing the Lamigo logo, and the third was before we were able to head toward our seats.
There were many similar things to baseball stadiums back home but what struck me the most was actually the food. It seemed perfectly acceptable to bring in outside food, heck, I saw a family bust out a whole sushi set and eat it in front of me while I salivated. The other difference being that there weren’t any vendors walking up and down the aisles selling peanuts or drinks or hot dogs or anything. If you were hungry or thirsty, and hadn’t brought a giant picnic in with you, you could join the giant lines for KFC, Pizza Hut, or local foods such as savory waffles with chunks of spam or ham and canned corn. I went for the kettle corn and some burrito looking thing that was a combination of kebab and soft sweet flat bread with green onions. As for beverages, there were your regular tea/juice places, Heineken stand, or you could just grab a local canned beer from the same vendor selling the corn topped waffles. And who can forget the toast with candy sprinkles? A classic(?).
The other big difference was the addition of the Lamigo Girls and their loud MC’s, a group of about 15-20 young women dressed in small clothes doing synchronized arm wiggles and tiny hip shakes and 2 loud MC’s who riled up the crowd and sang along with the songs. It seemed that the crowd was pretty familiar with their dance routines because everyone was joining in, young and old alike. I was slightly embarrassed to join in, but got the hang of it pretty quickly and by the end of the game I was pointing and shaking my arms like the not so best of them. Although they provided a nice distraction for the slow points of the game, the game itself was actually quite exciting. All in all I think I saw about 3-4 broken bats and a few players steal bases and it was just a close game in the last inning.
One thing I didn’t notice until half way through the game and what really threw me off was that I didn’t really know WHEN the game started. One moment the players are stretching and throwing the ball around on the outfield and the next thing you know someone scored a run. My first guess was that I was too distracted by the Lamigo Girls’ cheering but then I thought, “Ah! They didn’t sing a national anthem or say ‘Play Ball'” or something like that to just make the start of the game more official.
Once the game ended, the MC’s invited everyone to turn on their phone’s flashlight as the lights dimmed in the stadium and everyone sang along to a song that I obviously don’t know but everyone else was familiar with. Then fireworks for quite a few minutes and finally the lights turned back on and it was time to head out.
We met up with other friends of friends, who’d also gone to the game, a few towns over for some traditionally prepared goose, duck, and seafood.
I tried noddles, squid, goose, shark, stinky tofu and duck blood in a spicy broth, and pork(?) liver. What surprised me the most was the texture of the shark meat. It was the softest meat ever, just melted in your mouth, like meat cotton candy. Heck, even the stinky tofu wasn’t as bad as I remember it being the first time I tried it. Then again, I’ve definitely gotten more used to the smell of it, passing by it on the streets no longer is the same crazy nose scrunching ordeal.
Would I go to another game? Hell yes!
Did I think it was too loud? Sometimes
Will games in the US be oh so boring now? Most definitely.