The World’s Most Exciting Baseball Game

I’ve been to a lot of exciting baseball games in my life.

I’ve felt entire stadiums shake under my feet during home openers, playoff runs, postseason showdowns and even the World Series.

None of that compares to the energy I felt pulsating through the crowd during the Chinese Professional Baseball League’s (CPBL) 2013 opening day game in Taoyaun, Taiwan.

After a player hits a home run, fans are treated to fireworks, smoke, flags waving, fire bursts, cheerleaders and the thunderous sound of success
After a player hits a home run, fans are treated to fireworks, smoke, flags waving, fire bursts, cheerleaders and the thunderous sound of success

It’s a whole new ballgame

For nine innings straight, the crowd rhythmically chants alongside beating drums, blaring wind instruments, clapping cheerleaders, bellowing smoke machines, flags waving and flames shooting up from above the dugout.

Every pitch seems like an all-in moment and the excitement never wanes.

America may have invented baseball, but Taiwan has revolutionized the experience of attending a game.

 

A fisheye photograph of the Taoyaun International Baseball Stadium, taken from the last row of the upper deck
A fisheye photograph of the Taoyaun International Baseball Stadium, taken from the last row of the upper deck

 

Fans of the Lamigo Monkeys celebrate after their team scores a run
Fans of the Lamigo Monkeys celebrate after their team scores a run

Inside Taoyaun International Baseball Stadium

Opened in 2010, the Taoyaun International Baseball Stadium is home to the Taoyaun Lamigo Monkeys and seats 20,000 people.

However, as the there are only four teams in the league, all home games are packed with thousands of fans rooting for the visiting team as well.

To fuel this rivalry, the stadium is split in half and each team’s fans are encouraged to sit next to each other. That way, no matter what happens – ball, strike, out, hit, run – half of the stadium is cheering in unison.

 

On the right side, fans of the Lions can be seen in orange. To the left, fans of the Monkeys are in black
On the right side, fans of the Lions can be seen in orange. To the left, fans of the Monkeys are in black

 

Outside the Taoyaun International Baseball Stadium after the 2013 CPBL opening day game
Outside the Taoyaun International Baseball Stadium after the 2013 CPBL opening day game

Hyping Up the Crowd

If a Taiwanese baseball game were a symphony, the hype men would be the conductors.

Surrounded by cheerleaders and standing on top of their team’s dugout, these energetic men spend the entire game shouting into a microphone and encouraging the crowd to create a cacophony of rhythmic noise.

 

Cheerleaders at a Taiwanese baseball game change costumes several times a night
Cheerleaders at a Taiwanese baseball game change costumes several times a night

Always Something to Cheer For

As the excitement grows during any particular inning, so does the chorus of hands clapping, drums beating, horns blasting and thundersticks (see below) being struck together by thousands of amped up fans.

Meanwhile, any time there is a hit or key out, smoke and fire shoots into the air as stadium employees wave giant flags in the aisles.

 

Thunder sticks for the 7-Eleven Lions
Thunder sticks for the 7-Eleven Lions

 

Fans of the Lions cheer on their team in the lower level of Taoyaun International Baseball Stadium
Fans of the Lions cheer on their team in the lower level of Taoyaun International Baseball Stadium

The Seventh Inning Stretch Fight Song

I had a pretty good idea that I wouldn’t hear “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” in the middle of the seventh inning.

What I did hear was 100 times better; the entire Lamigo Monkeys crowd sang a fight song together while the 7-Eleven Lions side sang their own competing song. I highly suggest you watch the video below.


The Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL)

Established in 1989, the CPBL consists of four teams that each play 104 games per year. To keep things interesting, each season is divided into two separate 52 game halves. The winner of each half plays the other in the Taiwan Series.

Should the same team win both halves, the second and third place teams engage in a playoff series to determine who advances.

 

A view of the baseball game from the last row in right field
A view of the baseball game from the last row in right field

The Asia Series

Since 2005, the winner of the Taiwan Series has gone on to participate in the Asia Series against the league champions from China, Korea and Japan.

Taking place in a different country each year, the round-robin tournament’s first round features each team playing one-another once. The two clubs with the best record then face off in the finals.

Thus far, Japan has been the dominant force in the Asia Series; emerging victorious five times. Sadly, Taiwan has never taken home the trophy; a fact they hope to change when the games are played at home in 2013.

 

The scoreboard at Taoyaun International Baseball Stadium
The scoreboard at Taoyaun International Baseball Stadium

 

The view from the back row in left field
The view from the back row in left field

Baseball’s Opening Day: the Best Day of the Year

There’s something magical about opening day in baseball. Every score is 0-0 and no team is better than another. Miracles can happen and dynasties can quickly fade into history.

Random Fact: My love for baseball has led me to 19 Major League Baseball opening day games, including a 14 year streak at Shea Stadium.

 

CPBL Opening Day Logo
CPBL Opening Day Logo

 

Me with the Lamigo Monkey mascot
Me with the Lamigo Monkey mascot

I Almost Missed the Game

It was opening day of the 2013 CPBL season. I had no ticket and no clue where the Taoyaun International Baseball Stadium was located.

The CPBL Web site said it was close to the Taoyaun train station, so I used Google Maps and found directions to what I assumed was the stadium. When I got there, I found myelf standing in front of a big, beautiful and empty municipal track and field arena. Oops.

Thank Heaven for 7-Eleven… and Millie!

Across the street was a 7-Eleven, so I went in and asked for help. In broken English, the cashier explained that the baseball stadium was 25 kilometers away. It turns out that Taoyaun is big enough to have two train stations.

“Are you going to the baseball game,” a woman’s voice queried from the checkout counter? “I’m going and can give you a ride if you want.”

What a stroke of luck! This was a way better option than taking an overpriced taxi and hoping for the best.

Not only did Millie give me a lift to the stadium, but she and her friends also helped me buy a scalped ticket, invited me to dinner and gave me a lift to the correct train station after the game. Yet another example of the amazing kindness of the Taiwanese people.

 

My new friends at dinner after the game -- Millie is the one standing behind me
My new friends at dinner after the game — Millie is the one standing behind me

Buying a Scalped Ticket

Everyone said the baseball game was sold out, but with the help of Millie’s friend, Vivian, I was presented two options: buy a $6 outfield bleacher seat from the box office or a $17 scalped upper deck seat from a little old Taiwanese lady with a long mole hair.

After unsuccessfully trying to haggle, I still opted for the scalped seat. It’s a good thing I did, as the bleachers were separated from the rest of the stadium and if I had sat there I never would have gotten the photos on this page: or my foul ball!

 

Pregame outside the Taoyaun International Baseball Stadium
Pregame outside the Taoyaun International Baseball Stadium

What Food is there at a Taiwanese Baseball Game?

The most common food at a Taiwanese baseball game is whatever fans bring in with them. There are no bag checks or rules prohibiting outside eats or booze.

However, should hunger or thirst strike after you finish your imported consumables, there are plenty of options inside the stadium, including:

A "burrito" rolled in something like an Indian parotta with , with pork, onion, cucumber and duck sauce

  • Meat and fish on stick
  • Sausages in a bag
  • Chicken tender bites
  • Pork or Chicken burritos (this is what I ate)
  • Corn dogs
  • Corn on the cob
  • Popcorn (regular and caramel)
  • Cupcakes
  • Soft Serv Ice Cream
  • Soda
  • Tea
  • Fresh fruit smoothies
The food court on the Monkeys side at Taoyaun International Baseball Stadium
The food court on the Monkeys side at Taoyaun International Baseball Stadium

Scenes From the Jumbotron

Like any other stadium, the jumbotron at Taoyaun International Baseball Stadium is used for everything from introducing the batter to exciting the crowd to advertising some product.

Here are a few examples.

 

A hypnotic Lamigo Monkey on the jumbotron
A hypnotic Lamigo Monkey on the jumbotron

 

Chung Cheng-Yu comes to bat for the Lamigo Monkeys
Chung Cheng-Yu comes to bat for the Lamigo Monkeys

 

A scene from the scoreboard when the Monkeys get a hit
A scene from the scoreboard when the Monkeys get a hit

Random Observations from a Taiwanese Baseball Game

Even at a Taiwan baseball game, I can’t avoid New York Yankees jerseys. Perhaps that’s because Chien-Ming Wang is the most well-known Taiwanese player in Major League Baseball.

Including Chien-Ming Wang, there only have been eight Taiwanese baseball players to reach the major leagues in America.

There are very few souvenir stalls in the stadium. My personal favorite was the one below, which seemed to sell nothing but Chen shirts.

 

Where are the rest of the players?
Where are the rest of the players?

. . .

There is a tall green fence surrounding the front rows of the upper deck and field level. It makes sense in the upper deck as a way to protect the fans… but all it does on field level is block the view of the best seats in the stadium.

Both baseball teams bowed to their respective fans at the end of the game.

In the back row of the stadium, there is an entire row of seats that face away from the field. I just don’t get it!

 

These seats make no sense!
These seats make no sense!

I Caught a Foul Ball!

So there I was, wandering around the lower deck of the stadium. A Lamigo Monkey had just hit a home run, fireworks had been set off, the crowd was going wild and I had snapped some great photos. “What could be better than this,” I thought as I soaked it all in.

Millie took this photo of me with my foul ball, added the cartoon effects and uploaded it to her Facebook page. To this day, she calls me "Lucky Greg"

One batter later, #55 sent a foul ball towering towards my general direction. It bounced off the upper deck and down into the stands behind me before taking one final hop into the walkway.

As dozens of outstretched hands reached for it, I swung my right arm towards the ball and closed my hand. “Oh my God! Wait, did that just happen? Did I get it?”

After staring at the ball in utter amazement for a few seconds, I looked up and realized the entire crowd was cheering for me with their hands up for high-fives. Walking down the aisle with an ear-to-ear grin on my face, I felt like a celebrity. Something tells me I was on the jumbotron, but I didn’t stop to look.

 

Read the story of the one other time in my life that I caught a foul ball

 

Excited to tell my friends, I wandered around until I found them seated in the front row behind the Monkeys’ dugout. As there were no open seats, I simply sat down on the stairs next to them and proceeded to spend the final two innings watching the game by their side.

This was especially amazing to me, as in America I couldn’t even get down to the field level without a ticket, let alone sit there for an hour.

 

A baseball bat statue outside the stadium after the Monkeys won the 2013 Chinese Professional Baseball League opening day game
A baseball bat statue outside the stadium after the Monkeys won the 2013 Chinese Professional Baseball League opening day game

. . .

In case they are reading this, I want to send one final HUGE thank you to Millie, Vivian and everyone else who made my opening day experience one that I will never forget.


Have you ever attended a sporting event outside of your home country?

  • Jean

    where is “The Seventh Inning Stretch Fight Song” video, I can’t see it in the article!

    • Thanks for the heads up. Something must have gone a little coo-coo, but it’s back now.

  • Moody

    Thanks for loving the 2013 opening game in Taiwan. I was in the game, it’s really a wonderful game.

    Here is my suggestion about where the Taoyaun International Baseball Stadium is. I think it’s located near Taiwan High Speed Rail Taoyuan station. I don’t know if someone can tell apart Taoyuan Train Station and THSR Taoyuan Station when they’re first time in Taiwan. There are shuttle buses from THSR Taoyuan Station and Chungli Train Station and you can find the detail information in Lamigo’s website. If next time you want to join the game in Taoyuan, it can be one of your choice.

    Welcome to Taiwan. ^__^

    • Thanks so much for the info Moody. I wish I had written this post before the game to have known it. Although, then I never would have met Millie and had the unforgettable experience that I did.

  • Ricky

    Hi Greg:
    I’m Ricky!Lamigo is my supporting team.
    Glad to you met some great Taiwanese guys to help you.
    I really like this article.
    May I share your blog on my facebook timeline?
    Sincerely
    Ricky

    • Hi Ricky,
      Thanks so much for your message and for your request. Please do share it on your facebook! I would be proud to have Lamigo fans know that I am now their #1 fan!

  • Sounds like you had a great experience! I would have never even thought of going to a baseball game in Taiwan, much less put in all the effort to get there, but I can feel your enthusiasm by reading this.

    • Ha, thanks Alana. I am still excited about the game, and it was three weeks ago!

  • Daken

    Good article and welcome to Taiwan. Your post has been shared by Lamigo’s FB, and you’re very lucky to caught a foul ball at the opening day :) Enjoy rest of your time in Taiwan. You will find more amazing story in Taiwan. looking forward to your future blog

    • Thanks Daken! So glad that you enjoyed the post. I will forever cherish my foul ball! I look forward to your future comments.

  • Fatty

    Hello Greg, I’m a Tawanese baseball fan, I’m so happy to see your artile about this game, hope everything is fine for you! You said “In the back row of the stadium, there is an entire row of seats that face away from the field”, I think I can give you some advices(but not 100% correct). In the last row, the view isn’t too good for the fans, so that rows was set for the fans just seat to rest, chat or avoid the noise?! haha. And if anyone with wheerchair wants to go in to the stadium, they can stay in the back, and the chairs are for their companion.
    Hope this idea can help you! Thanks again you love this game! Enjoy the trip :)

    • Thanks so much for the information Fatty. That actually makes complete sense, but I still do find those seats a bit peculiar :) That said, it is great to be able to have seats for people to accompany someone in a wheelchair.

  • Proud Taiwanese

    Hello, here is yet another Taiwanese commenting on your turf.
    You, Sir, have earned my utmost respect.
    I do not state this simply because of the fact that you praised baseball in Taiwan. I say so because you’ve presented baseball in Taiwan through a colorful lens with keen observation.
    Additionally, I am rather glad to see more and more foreign friends go to the ballpark, cheering for their teams.
    I hope that you continue to do what you love and keep supporting Taiwan baseball! I believe that, with the hospitality of Taiwanese people, you will find true joy in rooting for your team with us enthusiastic, avid baseball fans here in Taiwan.
    Thanks for promoting CPBL, we owe you a solid, brother.
    PEACE.
    (ignore the name and e-mail they are meant to be anonymous I just want to say certain things to you. That’s all. But you can reply, though, I’ll come back. :) )

    • What a beautiful comment. I’m so glad that this story has made such an impact. After my experience, you can be sure that I will always support Taiwan baseball and will be telling all my friends back home about it.
      PEACE

  • Diyago

    Hi Greg

    I’ve see you on that CPBL opening game!!! I also transfer your article to my FB!!

    https://www.facebook.com/jianjong.wu?ref=tn_tnmn

    Haaa~~ Hope can be your friend!!

    By the way!~~ I live in Sinjhuang~and the Sinjhuang baseball stadium in front my home!!! Maybe we can watch the baseball game together in Sinjhuang!!!

    • Thanks so much for the offer Diyago. I would love to go to a game with you, but alas I fly out of Taiwan tomorrow. Perhaps in a few years, because I would LOVE to come back to your beautiful country.

  • William

    Hi Greg, I’m a Taiwanese, I was so glad that such a wonderful article was written in English. Thus, baseball and culture of Taiwan can be understand more by friends from oversea. With those amazing photos you taken, CPBL really should share this in their official website!! I have been a baseball fan of Taiwan for almost 10 years; our baseball has gone through some obstacles during the past decade. However, after the good effort and spirit we perform in the WBC, people were moved by Taiwan baseball again!! More Taiwanese started to watch baseball on TV, and more fans started to buy ticket to see a game in the stadium !! It really a pleasure that you are actually participate in this important moment of Taiwan baseball (And so lucky to catch a foul ball….). Anyway, thanks for the article and hope you have a great time in Taiwan~(I hope I be your guide~hahaha)

    • Thanks for your comment and kind words, William. Nothing would make me more proud than to have the CPBL share my article on their Web site. I am so happy to see baseball thriving in Taiwan. If my experience at the game is any indicator, it will be here for quite a while.

  • So cool! I’ve gone to the opening game for the Cleveland Indians, my hometown team. What a great experience!

  • Chiang

    Hi Greg!
    I’m so happy that you love the game!
    Baseball really mean something in we Taiwanese’s heart and thanks to WBC now there are much more fans willing to come back to the field. It’s just too good to be true!
    There are many differences between Asia’s and America’s baseball culture. For the atmosphere of the game, we make a lot of NOISE during the game. In MLB, on the contrary, we just clapping on our own our even simply chating but not always focus on the game. The main reason is that there are nobody leading the audiences to sing, to scream or else in MLB. After the exciting experience of you, what do you think about the difference? Why is that so different or even more, which one do you prefer?
    It’s amazing to have such a great opinion of our baseball culture from a foreigner so I hope the question would not offend you :p
    And wish you have a even more amazing time in Taiwan in the rest of your journey :-)
    Good Luck!

    • You have hit the nail right on the head, Chiang. The excitement in the stands is exactly what sets the MLB and the CPBL apart. To answer your question, I much prefer the atmosphere at a game in Taiwan and would prefer it if baseball games back in the USA had the same energy level. Thanks so much for your comment.

  • Leo

    What a small world! I am in the picture which you introduce the Chen’s shirt.
    The block shirt I wear is the memory t-shirt of Chen’s no.100 homerun.

    • That’s incredible, Leo! Which one are you???

      • Leo

        Haha, I am below the Lamigo mark, and wear the block t-shirt.

        • Leo

          sorry, it’s black t-shirt.

        • I really can’t believe that you found yourself :)

  • I love heading to sports events in other countries. I think it gives a great perspective into the local culture/character.
    Epic pictures, feels like I was there with you!

  • Pingback: 在Lanew高熊變成Lamigo桃猿了之後 | 艾吉單飛鳥()

  • So I normally don’t go to baseball games because they are SOOO long, and I inevitably eat like five helpings of disgusting nachos. But smoothies? Meat-on-a-stick? Count me IN.

  • Viv

    I will try to get your Lamigo T-shirt when you come back next time. Great essay! Ha! Take care.

  • Great essay, ha! So glad to meet you and i will try to give you a Lamigo T-shirt when you come back to Taiwan! Take care!

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