Arrived in Taiwan!
I left on Friday and arrived in Taiwan on Sunday morning at 6am. This past day and a half of traveling has been wild. I left Fort Lauderdale, connected in Houston, flew to Los Angeles, and finally took the 15 hour flight over to Taipei. I was greeted by our translator “Luis” at the airport who was extremely nice and polite. He gave me the low down of the culture of the baseball in Taiwan.
When I arrived at 6am I was told we had a doubleheader at our home stadium. One thing that is different over here compared to the minor leagues is that their doubleheaders are nine innings. I somehow didn’t feel too jetlagged yet, so I came over to the field to meet my new teammates and coaching staff. I signed all my contracts and was given a ton of equipment to supply me for the next 2 years. Our home field is only two years old and is amazing. Its playing surface is pristine and the dugouts are huge. We have indoor batting cages and pitching mounds, as well as a state of the art workout facility under the stadium. The stadiums dimensions are pretty fair and the wind howls across from right to left, which can be beneficial as a pitcher. Their are two tiers and it looks like the stadium can hold around 20,000-25,000 fans. The locker rooms are well maintained and our pre-game spread was delicious dumplings. One were filled with pork and the others were more like a pastry and plain. I’m very excited to try out all the cultural food Taiwan has to offer.
Once we took the field I noticed many similarities of that to winterball. Managers play this game like it is the playoffs. Teams bunt early in the game and try to run. As the game goes on they will also play the matchups and get pitchers going in the bullpen to be ready for certain hitters. The most interesting parts I found so far was that when we score the player who scores runs along the dugout fence and slap hands with our teammates rather than coming into the dugout to be greeted. The other is after the 5th inning there is a 10-15 minute break for the grounds crew to re-paint the lines, batters box, and groom the field. It is like a half time in baseball. It should be interesting to see how pitchers react to this, because they can be cruising throughout the game and then have to wait for the game to resume. This can throw off their rhythm, so they need to focus and know how to be ready once the game resumes. There are some other rules that are different that play into affect. If a batter hits a homerun and the next batter is beaned with a ball, its an automatic ejection. Also if a batter is hit twice in one game, the pitcher is ejected.
I will be posting videos and pictures of sites around town once I get settled into an apartment or hotel. Please feel free to comment and ask questions and share this link with your friends.
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The past week has gone by like none other. Prior to my 2nd start with Grand Prairie I was notified by my agent that a Taiwanese team was interested in signing me to a contract. They made an offer and told me they would let me know if the deal was finalized within 48 hours. I had to let the Airhogs know what was going on so that our manager would be able to get another pitcher in case I had to leave shortly. Of course he was upset I might be leaving, but he totally understood the circumstances.
48 hours went by and no word from Taiwan. I continued to pitch in my scheduled game and had one of the craziest starts I’ve ever been a part of. 6 errors behind me (one of my own), 1 earned run of 7 runs, and we only lost 8-1. Hopefully the Taiwanese scouts did not read up on that box score or see what happened in that game to determine if they would choose me to join their team. A couple days later we got the final word that it was an all go with Taiwan. Unfortunately I was on the road with my team in Kansas City. I had to find a way to get back to Dallas, pack up my apartment and car, and then find a way back to Miami. All of this was at my own expense. Along with all of this I had to get together my passport, sign contracts, get 2×2 photos for my Visa, make an appointment with the Taipei Consulate in Miami, pack again, and say hi and bye to my family and girlfriend for whoever knows how long.
I am very excited for this opportunity to travel and play in Taiwan. The league is the Chinese Professional Baseball League (CBPL). Each team is allowed four imports, but only 2-3 can be active on the roster. The team I will be playing for is the Lamigo Monkeys. They are currently in first place of the four team league. I hope to help them continue winning and make a push for the playoffs in September. Many thanks to Fu-Ti- Ni’s translators Fox Sung and Steve Xiu for helping me out figure out what I will need over there. I will continue to blog and update all of you with pictures and videos from the other side of the world as best as I can.
This will be a very fun and exciting journey, and I’m so glad to share it with my friends and fans. I really thank you for your continued support no matter where I end up. Please comment and ask questions. I want to give back as much info as I can.
A nice article from Oaklandclubhouse.com about my friend/teammate Jon Hunton and I.
This blog entry comes hours after our third game here in Grand Prairie. This season in the American Association the league officials came up with the new rule to have 90 seconds in between innings from when the last defensive player crosses the lines. This was constituted to speed up the games. This rule has been adopted by the NCAA as well, but they also have a 20 second pitch clock for time in between pitches. I understand and totally agree that the game at times can drag and take awhile.
When I was in Toledo I would see the umpires in between innings have a stop watch to keep the warm up times short, but it never became an issue. For these first three games in Grand Prairie the umpiring staff have been all over both teams about this rule. I understand they have to reinforce it and abide by it as we do as well, but they have taken it to another level. From the first pitch of the game these umpires are chirping telling us to get in the batters box and not giving pitchers ample time to warm up. Twice tonight the opposing teams catcher wasn’t “allowed” to throw the ball down to second base to end wrap up the warm up routine. This clearly upset the catcher and manager. Two coaches and one player were eventually ejected for arguing the speed up rule. The ejections ended up stalling the game for about 20 minutes, which definitely defeats the purpose of speeding the game up. I’m not sure what the penalty is if a pitcher throws more warm up pitches or if the batter takes too long to get into the box. Umpires might be able to call a ball or strike on them depending on the situation.
To summarize, I totally agree with the rule to a degree. Teams were told about this rule from the beginning of the season and we will go with it. But when it becomes a power-trip by these umpires it is not fair to the players. We all are out there for 3 hours a day to play America’s greatest past time and give the fans a great show. Someone is eventually going to get hurt for not getting the proper warm up throws in. My theory is to have the umpires remind the managers at the beginning of the game about the rule. If the time becomes an issue throughout the game, then they can give a warning or ask the team to get out of the dugout a little quicker in between innings. They shouldn’t be starring down at their stopwatch, clapping their hands, trying to speed us up every single inning. They even are yelling at the promotion and on-field personnel people who are trying to do their job as well. More players and coaches are going to get ejected because of this rule because the umpires are abusing their power of authority.
Lets just have fun and play ball.
The first week is in the books of my second spring training of the season. Playing “indy” ball can be a wake up call to many who are not familiar with the random chaos that goes on. Our team changed ownership about three weeks ago and we hired a new manager and staff at that time as well. These guys have been trying to put together a competitive team in a very short time. They actually have been sleeping in the locker room. This past week we had our evaluation/tryout week. Because our field was not ready to be played on we ventured all over the Dallas metroplex area and worked out at random high schools and universities. This is just one of the small quirks of indy ball; never knowing where practice that day may be.
Some players definitely take this game for granted sometimes. While doing the bucket the other day in Fort Worth I had to bring the bucket in every two batters because they did not supply us with enough balls. It felt like I was getting my conditioning in by running it in from the outfield every five minutes. I thought baseballs were like bouillons of gold in the DR and Mexico, but they are just as rare in indy ball. The umpires in the league are fair. Most if not all of them are fresh out the Wendelstedt umpiring school and are under 25 years old. We only have a two man crew at the games, so check swings and close plays can get a little tricky for them.
Random side notes: Our bus/van broke down twice on the way to Fort Worth. Our clubee left us only to have the manager and coaches doing the laundry till the wee hours of the night. They actually had rookies doing it the other day though. You have to pay your dues in this game somehow. Speaking of clubhouse dues, dues in indy ball are $2 a day. In AAA they are $12 a day. Today I witnessed players wrapping each others arms with ice and manning the stem machine, because there wasn’t a trainer in today. There is always something to talk about from our days at the park.
We open up at home on Thursday against the Gary Railcats. Greg Smith is on the bump for opening night and I’ll be throwing Friday. Thanks for reading and all the support. Please comment and share with your friends.
So the final answer is Independent ball, again.
After a loooooonnnnngggg month home after my release from the Tigers I have joined the Grand Prairie Airhogs of the American Association. This will be my second stint with them. I joined them after I had shoulder surgery with the Oakland A’s back in 2008.
For the past month I have been staying in shape throwing, working out, and running. My agent and I were trying to find the best scenario going forward to help my career. I was very open to going overseas to Korea or Taiwan, but unfortunately no jobs opened in our time frame. It also was too early in the minor league season for most teams to sign any new players, so our only option was independent ball.
For most of you who are not familiar with “indy” ball it is very similar to minor league ball. The main differences are the salary and roster limits. We travel by bus (actually a sleeper bus, with tvs, and wi-fi), get meal money, and play in nice cities with beautiful ballparks. Our ballpark here in GP is 20 minutes from Dallas and 15 minutes from Arlington. The stadium is 4 years old and has a enormous restaurant/bar with 40+ flat screen tvs in it and we have a swimming pool in right field.
I’m very excited to get this season going. I’ve been itching to play for the past month, especially having to watch baseball on tv and following my friends online with their teams. Hopefully I’ll do well for myself and the team and get picked up to play affiliated ball again somewhere. We seem to have a great team on paper with some quality players who have played at advanced levels of affiliated ball. The season opens up at home on May 12 and the games can be viewed on the website http://www.airhogsbaseball.com.
I’ll be back to updating the blog as much as I can, hopefully weekly. My twitter will have pictures and videos from the stadiums and cities we visit as well. Feel free to comment or email me any questions. Thanks for the continued support everyone!