To say that the last day and a half have been a whirlwind would be a rather large understatement. From the second we landed in Taiwan until now (the fourth inning of Game 1), we’ve been going almost non-stop but it’s been an amazing first 24 hours. Warning – this post will be a tad longer than usual.
The team’s arrival at the airport was met with throngs of media and fans and we took a bus ride through rush hour traffic, arriving at our team hotel around 7 p.m. There had to be several hundred fans waiting on the streets by the hotel and as everyone entered the hotel, there were people cheering as we walked up the stairs to our check-in area.
A news conference at the hotel shortly thereafter was packed beyond belief – a common theme when it comes to media here. And then a welcome party that was quite nice followed by a recurring theme from our trip to Beijing — Kim Ng, Jon SooHoo and myself went to some late night noodles, joined by KABC’s Josh Suchon. That foursome hit up a local watering hole (called Brass Monkey for all you Beastie Boys fans) to see the nightlife and then it was off to bed for the first time in about 24 hours.
With an early 8 a.m. MLB logistics meeting, we plotted a day that had about 50 moving parts to it, yet it all came together incredibly well.
First, Chin-lung Hu took part in a news conference announcing the Dodgers’ new deal with MSI, a Taiwanese computer company that recently signed a partnership with us. At the same time, a quartet of Dodger players – Xavier Paul, Trayvon Robinson, John Lindsey and Brian Barton – joined Jaime Jarrin for a visit to the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial, which actually seemed kind of like a Taiwanese version of the Lincoln Memorial. Very beautiful surroundings, too, and a group of young school kids realized who the players were and mobbed them, with Xavier saying he felt like a Jonas Brother.
From there, we headed off to Taipei 101, the second-tallest building in the world with the world’s fastest elevator. It was insanely high and just shooting up 89 floors in about 30 seconds made our ears pop. Joining the group at that point was James Loney, Prentice Redman and Kenley Jansen and while we were there, we found out that Manny Ramirez was having lunch at a restaurant just 14 floors below.
So, the whole group went down to say hello, snap some photos, and then Manny was off for an appearance that he was making in town to promote the Taipei International Flora Expo at the end of this year. Apparently, this is a huge deal here in Taiwan, as signs all around the ballpark promote that upcoming event. Manny was there with the Taipei mayor and they planted a tree in a ground-breaking ceremony or sorts. Manny spoke to the crowd and in addition to thanking the Taiwanese people for being so respectful, he also thanked them for serving as a place where many Dominicans come to play baseball. Again, there must have been 40 news cameras there.
Finally, it was time to head to the ballpark to meet up with Kuo and Hu, who were hosting a clinic for kids along with Tim Wallach, Jim Slaton, John Shoemaker and Lorenzo Bundy. While that was going on, Ken Gurnick of dodgers.com and I headed to lunch across the street at the food court of the mall. Now usually when you walk into the food court, you’re used to seeing restaurants like Cinnabon, Sbarro, Carl’s Jr. and usually one Chinese food place. Well, we saw about 20 Chinese food places that all looked the same and settled on Thai food. Certainly a unique experience, as this entire trip has been so far.
Once we were back inside the ballpark, there was the usual game day stuff. Batting practice, a team photo, on-field introductions, anthems and all that good stuff. And Eric Stults pitched three scoreless innings, striking out four while walking just one – his former minor league teammate, Chin-Feng Chen.
There’s a zillion other thoughts that go through all of our heads as we experience a new culture like this one but there’s only so many things you can write, so we’ll keep it coming over the next couple days.
Again, be sure to check Twitter @dodgertownusa, as we’re updating that all day long with fun one-liners and of course, check out the coverage from Ken on the front of the site and all the other media members tailing along for the ride. And once we get back to the States, keep an eye out at dodgers.com/dmn for lots of awesome video features, as we’ve had crews tailing the players around everywhere they go.