Baseball, pride and national identity in Taiwan

A song and a dance are dedicated to each player during the play. Although it may seem the opposite at first glance, the audience pays attention to the course of the play and do not hesitate to pause the songs to celebrate.

A truly different way than watching the games at home is starting an amateur in the Tainan stands. It seems that in America people want to drink beer, chat and eat during the game.

A magical moment at the festival stands for little Shu-Yun dressed in orange as the local team Unilions (teams are named according to their main sponsor, editor’s note). His quilts sway from left to right, following dances he knows by heart.

She already shares the passion of her father, Eddie, who tries to follow her around the stadium, running everywhere to see the match, the mascot and the cheerleaders. Eddie came to work and live in Tainan in the 90s to follow his team closely.

At home, my daughter and I often talk about Unilions. I tell him stories from the past, she says. She knows a lot about the team. Today is his first match in person. He is excited!

CPBL (Chinese Professional Baseball League) in its 33rd season. It appeared on the island only after the period of martial law, which ended in 1987. The league is recovering from major sports betting scandals of 1996 and 2008. The Taiwanese government even had to intervene to clean up the sport.

Players are accused of taking money and sexual advances from prostitutes in a match-fixing case. Two of the six teams have now closed shop.

Baseball was introduced to Taiwan by the Japanese, who colonized the island after China handed over control in 1895. Sport is part of Taiwanese identity. The 500 new Taiwan dollar bill also marks a historic moment in Taiwanese baseball, the first national victory against a Japanese team.

This is the national sport in which we excel. A CTBC Brothers supporter who came to support his team in the Tainan stands said it was a great source of pride. Everyone follows baseball!

Taiwan won its first Olympic silver medal in baseball in 1992 in Barcelona. Divisions of the World Baseball Classic (equivalent to the World Cup) will also be played here next March. The national team competes under the name China Taipei due to Chinese pressure internationally.

A seated crowd.

The crowd is watching the baseball game.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Afore Hsieh

It can be stifling in Taiwan during the hot summer months. Many fans bring battery powered small stand fans to enjoy the game. Carnival atmosphere prevails in stadiums in Taiwan as well as in all parts of Asia. It can be confusing for foreign players like Unilions star shooter Brock Dykxhoorn of Ontario.

Portrait of Brock Dykxhoorn at a baseball stadium

Brock Dykxhoorn has a baseball career in Taiwan.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Philippe Leblanc

The deafening noise bothered me in my first games in Asia, it was in South Korea, he admits. Sometimes, when the crowd is ecstatic, it can encourage me to change my pace, which I shouldn’t. I really like the atmosphere. It’s party time and every night of the week feels like an important Saturday night game.

Fans sang and danced for nearly four hours on a Saturday game night in early August. The match ended with Unilions 6 to 11 win. Seeing the smiles of the fans of CTBC Brothers, the losing team that evening, it’s easy to understand that it wasn’t a defeat. Victories or lessons to be learned for players only. What a great time and a few hours for supporters to forget about all the worries of daily life.

Our Asian correspondent, Philippe Leblanc, will be in Taiwan for the next few months to introduce us to this island of nearly 24 million people, its community, and the challenges that enliven it. Also to cover current issues in the Asia-Pacific region.

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