Welcome to BFN, ‘ChapelTom‘…
What’s the most common question do you think I am asked as a baseball fan in Taiwan? Have a think for a second…
Of course it’s “Where are you from?” and when I answer “England” in a heavy northern English accent, it’s immediately followed up by the inevitable, “People in the UK don’t watch baseball.” So how did I go from being football crazy to being a passionate fan of Taiwanese baseball in just under 4 years?
When I left University back in 2014, I didn’t have much idea of what to do. I ended on a TEFL course in Thailand in October of that year, fast forward to August 2015 and I was based in Bangkok and travelling all over Thailand watching football. Suddenly, things went wrong…
To cut a long story short, I was forced out of my job through no fault of my own during August 2015. I realised in that month that I had no future as an English teacher in Thailand. I was told to look at jobs for the same company but in Taiwan. What Taiwan? Even as a geography nerd, I knew very little about it. I went ahead and enquired.
At 11:30am on Thursday 3rd September 2015, my life changed. I had my interview on Skype and was given the job at a school in Tainan, Taiwan. I had 2 days to pack and move over to Taipei to begin a week’s training in Taipei, where I landed at 6am on Sunday 6th September.
From first enquiring to flying over to Taiwan, I didn’t get chance to do much research. The one thing I knew, was that football was NOT a big thing over here. It turned out the major sport was baseball, but English information was somewhat scarce. I was somewhat conflicted, I’d got out of a tough situation in Thailand but as for my main passion, football, things would have to change.
A week of training was completed and I moved down to Tainan on Saturday 12th September. I had no Wi-Fi in my new apartment and no transport. I knew precious little about Tainan, I didn’t even know where I was on the map. I found a 7 Eleven, got on the Wi-FI and it turned out the Lamingo Monkeys (as I called them then!) and Uni Lions were playing baseball in Tainan that day.
Where was the stadium? 3.5km away, and I was going to have to walk in 34C heat.
Did I know any Chinese? No, I knew nothing.
Did I know anything about baseball? A little but I still didn’t have much idea.
I walked 35 minutes to the stadium, following Google Maps and got my first taste of baseball. So how did I find the game, in a sport I knew little about, in a city I’d been in several hours, in a country I’d been in for under a week? I really quite liked it.
I found Taiwanese baseball to be an interesting ‘culture collision’ as I so wrote at the time, an American sport being played in the Far East. I was open minded about the whole experience, everything about this first day was new to me. I didn’t know exactly what I was watching and of course, it would take time for me to teach myself more. I enjoyed the game which ended 9-7 Lamigo Monkeys. The picture at the top of this article is from that very first game.
It felt surreal. I’d moved countries at two days notice, I had been watching Thai football a week previously. I can’t really describe the feelings from that first day, from the first week actually.
You may be interested to look at my blog post from the time, it’s fairly poor compared to be more recent writing. I used to be a big ‘stadium’, well ‘ground’ nerd and I used to place more emphasis on that side of things.
Also here is my full photo album from that first day.
So what became of the first day experience? I returned the following day but at first I was just trying to kill time, I didn’t get Wi-Fi at my apartment for over a week. I watched 5 Lions games in 8 days and the first few games set a trend. I could always be found at Tainan’s stadium, towards the back above 3rd base and it stayed that way until sometime in 2017. I moved to the 1st base side with the more passionate Lions fans, as I became more comfortable.
So if I was trying to kill time, what did turn me into the big fan that I am now? What turned me into someone who now writes about the sport, goes home and away watching the Lions and at the time of writing, has been to 148 games of baseball in Taiwan?
It was football. I watched several games during the winter of 2015 and it was really quite, low key. I knew I was not going to be able to watch Taiwanese football regularly. I had a void to fill, I wanted to get behind a team. I’ve always enjoyed that feeling, going home and away, winning and losing as a fan. I’ve always found that to be addictive. It became obvious, supporting the Lions would be the way to go.
Over the 2015/2016 winter time, I became more familiar with the rules and did quite a lot of travelling in Taiwan. From October 2015 to February 2016, I was out almost every weekend exploring and getting used to Taiwanese transport.
I travelled to the Lions first game of the season in March 2016 away to Chinatrust Brothers at Xinzhuang Stadium, New Taipei. I could scarcely believe it, I travelled 320km for baseball… and the Lions won 11-0. I will let my blog post from the time, say more…
It was after that, that I started to become that big fan, 25 games in 2016 but it was a wet year, and I was petrified of wasted trips, and I still managed to make 3 of those! 34 games in 2017, presenting the game MvP award twice and then last year, 52 games. So far this season, I’ve been to 22 games and recently ended a streak of 29 consecutive weekend games.
I’ve visited every single stadium used for professional baseball in Taiwan multiple times and over this last winter produced an English language baseball/stadium guide to Taiwan.
What does the future hold? I’m planning to stay in Taiwan, particularly Tainan for the next few years at least. If you are ever planning on a baseball game here in Taiwan, I can be found on social media via the name ‘ChapelTom’ that’s Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and WordPress.