Not much happening here in Tainan so I though I'd write a post about another Lions team that I've found out about. Actually, after doing a quick google search I learned that there are a ton of teams that go by the name "Lions". But check out this team. Notice anything familiar?
Orange and green!
Now a few years ago our local (Uni-) Lions changed their color scheme from green, red, yellow, and white to green,orange, and white (please see this great article for pro Taiwan baseball uniform info of the 90's). This seems to have been done in order to match the team with the 7-11 convenience stores (whose name became part of the team's official one- the Uni-President 7-Eleven Lions...ugh). Personally I think orange and green is not the best way to go for a sports franchise, but considering the sponsorship angle, it kinda makes sense.
I have no idea why this team in Mexico chose orange and green for a team called the Lions.
If you'd like to know a little more about the Yucatan Lions, here's their wikipedia entry (but it sucks, the Spanish one is slightly better).
Opening Day tickets went on sale today and the Liberty Times feel confident enough to report who the starting pitchers will be. Lions ace Pan Wei-Lun will take to the mound against Lin Er-Yu of the Elephants.
This will be Lin's first start in the CPBL since he left for Japan three years ago. The former Macoto Cobras hurler joined the Rakuten Golden Eagles of the Central League in 2007, spending most of his time in their minor league system or on the disabled list.
This pitching match-up is being billed as the "Chicken Toot Wars" (according to google translator) due to the player nicknames of Dudu (translated as Toot for Pan) and Little Chick (sometimes translated as Chicken Little, for Lin)
In other news, I went down to the stadium this morning and can confirm that spring training is being held there, and it is open to the public. It's pretty boring though.
News on the upcoming regular season schedule keeps trickling in. The league announced that the Lions and Elephants will open the brand new Taoyuan International Baseball Field on March 21. Still no word on the rest of the schedule however.
Matt White is the newest foreign addition to the Lions pitching staff. Between 2003 and 2005 Matt pitched in 7 games in the majors: 3 with the Red Sox, 3 with the Mariners, and 1 with the Nationals. In 2007, after failing to make the Dodgers out of training camp, he joined the Yokohama Bay Stars of the Japanese Central League for the next two seasons. I have no idea where he played in 2009, as I can't find any information on the subject.
Matt also gained some attention for a stroke of good fortune regarding a property deal. To help out his great aunt, he bought 50 acres of mountain land from her for $50,000. He later found out that it was full of Goshen Stone, which apparently is some kind of extremely valuable rock. The estimated monetary amount of this rare mineral on White's property is 2.5 billion dollars.
Without having seen this guy pitch, I already wholeheartedly endorse this signing for the Lions. In the gangster friendly, corruption ridden environment that is the CPBL, foreign players have always been easy targets. The guys who come here from abroad are usually at the tail end of their careers, just looking to wring a few more paychecks from their arm, glove, or bat. For most of them Taiwan is a place they will only ever spend a few months of their entire lives in. When offered a sizable amount of money to throw a game in a league you've barely heard of, in a country you'll never visit again, it must be pretty easy to say ok.
The first game of the new season has been announced and,as per tradition, the two teams that ended the previous season will start the new one.
That means it'll be the champion Lions squaring off against the Taiwan Series finalist Brother Elephants.The game takes place on March 20 at 5pm. As champs the Lions got to choose the location and they've decided to play in Tienmu, ignoring their home in Tainan. I am not impressed.
Tickets go on sale tomorrow (Feb 10) if you can figure out how to use those i-bon machines at 7-11.
I assume the rest of the regular season schedule will be released in the near future.
I found this nifty depth chart on the team's website the other day. It lists 22 position players (4 catchers!) and 15 pitchers. This appears to be the roster that finished last season and should eventually be updated by opening day.
Over the years there have been quite a few notable players to don the orange and green of the Lions. One such player was Israel Cristostomo "Izzy" Alcántara.
His best years were spent in the major leagues with the Boston Red Sox and Milwaukee Brewers. In 2002, his second and final season as a Red Sox player, he was benched by his manager for not appearing to hustle. The following season he was signed by the Brewers but only came up to the plate 32 times. Izzy spent the 2003 and 2004 seasons playing in Korea before finally ending up as a Lion for a part of the 2005 season. According to his wikipedia entry, Izzy was "released for reasons never fully explained by the management" (this is not an uncommon occurrence for foreign players over here).
On the surface Izzy Alcántara was not one of the more spectacular players to roll through these parts. But, despite his underwhelming MLB career, there is a good chance you've seen at least a few seconds of him on tv. While playing for Boston's AAA team in Pawtucket in 2001, Izzy took offence at a (second) brush back pitch that was thrown at him by the Pawtucket pitcher. This is what happened next: (I apologize for the poor video quality)
Professional baseball in Taiwan has had many problems with corruption. Might as well get that out in the open nice and early in this blog. Since the final day of last season three of the four teams that play in the CPBL have had players investigated by the authorities for taking bribes and/or associating with known gangsters. The only club to escape any punishment has been the league champion Lions. To be honest I don't know if this makes them the least corrupt or the most corrupt team in the league.
A quick scan of the league's wikipedia page shows that the CPBL has been plagued with these kinds of problems almost since inception.
Why bother following a league that's had such a checkered past?
It's still baseball.
Sure, the players may be on the take. Yes, the result of the game may have been decided before the first pitch. But you still get to watch the show. You still get to sit in the bleachers, drink a few beers and hurl abuse at the right fielder. It's still a great way to spend a lazy summer evening.
Will I ever care about these teams the same way that I care about a team untainted by the stink of corruption?
I was looking up season ticket information on the team website when I came across this interesting piece of news. When you buy a season ticket, the team will put your name (and a number) on your seat for you.
I bet Rachel. W can't wait for the season to get started!
Unfortunately it appears you can only buy season tickets for the NT$300 sections of the park (at half price). That's far too high class for someone like me. I'll be sticking to the outfield bleachers again this year.
The Lions have announced that part of their spring training will be open to the public.
Here's the full schedule: (with thanks to google translate)
Lions spring training in February Time:
At 08:30 on February 10 spring training ball
At 08:30 on February 11 spring training ball
February 12-17 days annual leave holiday
At 10:00 on February 18 spring training ball
At 10:00 on February 19 spring training ball
At 10:00 on February 20 spring training ball
At 10:00 on February 21 spring training ball
February 22 vacation
At 10:00 on February 23 spring training ball
At 10:00 on February 24 spring training ball
At 10:00 on February 25 spring training ball
At 10:00 on February 26 spring training ball
February 27 vacation
At 1:00 p.m. on February 28 Red and White Tournament
From what I can gather the team should be having these sessions at their home stadium. I could be totally wrong about this however.
Ok, so the purpose of this blog is to follow the Uni-President 7-11 Lions baseball team. For those unfamiliar with the team, they play in the CPBL (Taiwan's pro baseball league). To be honest, I find the name of this team to be clunky and overly sponsored, so I'll just refer to them as the Lions from here on in. I've been following the team off and on for the past several seasons, but I've decided to put in a bit more of an effort this year. Here's hoping that the Lions can bring home another championship.