Monday, April 28, 2008

Shanghai Eagles Baseball!

Baseball is the only sport I care about, and honestly I don't care all that much. Every year here I've briefly considered signing up for the online baseball channel MLB.TV, but I've never really gotten around to it. I keep remembering that I didn't even bother to plug in the rabbit ears of my TV when I lived in Oakland - they were purely ornamental.

However I at least understand the basic rules and points of strategy, which is more than I can say for soccer. So after reading about the free baseball games in Eastern Shanghai on Micah Sittig's short article, I decided to head over to the stadium and catch a free game.

It's not quite as easy to get there as the article would suggest - yes, it's an easy ride on a brand-new subway line to Gaoke Road Station. And as a sideline, I was very impressed with the tranfer station, it didn't require a ten minute hike like a lot of other Shanghai transfer points.

However, it dropped me off in the middle of god-knows-what. I wrote down simple directions off a map before leaving my apartment, they had me walking through a weird desolate area with a lot of construction going on, as shown to the left. I instead asked a policeman that happened to be nearby, he told me to walk down Gaoke Road, make a right on Dongming Road, and then another right on Yunlian Road. It's about a ten or fifteen minute walk, located in a larger Sports complex much like the one the Shanghai Sharks play in.

There's a Kedi Convenience Store along Dongming Road, it's important to stock up on supplies here because the stadium doesn't sell anything. Not peanuts, not cracker jacks, no baseball hats, no jerseys, no foam "#1" fingers. Not even water or beer, although most of the fans were sporting 22s of Malt Liquor (no really). It seems kind of nonsensical until you see the stadium:

It's a very small stadium, even without considering that those red and white flags limit most of the stadium off limits to fans. It was maybe a hundred or so people in the stands, all either players, foreigners, or their friends. It also ended up raining really hard. It didn't stop the game but it explains the umbrellas out in force.

The small size and the low-key feel gave the whole affair the feeling of a high-school game. I have to admit, this extended to the level of play. I saw one of the ugliest plays I've ever seen at any level. The man on first was caught attempting to steal by a pitch out. The catcher made a pretty good throw to second base, but the throw got past the tag, past the second baseman backing him up, and then past the center fielder. Also, the pitcher for the Shanghai Eagles threw entirely fastballs down the center of the plate - looking at the teammate tracing him on the speed gun, all the pitches were in the 70s. Wow.

The pitcher for Tianjin threw sidearm, with pretty good movement. I was a little surprised throughout the game, there were several players with strange batting stances and the like. But really there wasn't much that different to the baseball I'm used to, aside from the Tianjin team bowing to the Umpire before stepping into the batting box - the Shanghai team didn't. I remember this from watching a Japanese baseball game once - maybe they have a Japanese coach or something. Oh, also the teams had a group huddle before starting their half of the inning.

The Shanghai Team had numbers and Chinese-character names on their uniforms, strangely enough Tianjin didn't have any easy way to identify who was who. Anyway for those with an interest, here's a copy of the team's lineup. It was given to me by the team's mascot, on the right. Players are as young as 16, and as old as 36, with most in their 20s.

All in all the game was fun if extremely casual, I'd recommend it. The league has a split season, from April 11th to May 11th, and then from September 5th to September 14th, with a playoff from September 20th to October 12th. Unless Shanghai gets into the playoffs, they will only host games for the first part of the season. Games are listed on - to make it easy, the only regular-season home games left are May 2nd and 3rd at 2:30, or May 4th at 9:30 am.

No comments: