On Tuesday morning a short clip of a baseball game started going around Twitter.
First professional game in Taiwan. #CPBL No fans. But at least they made enough progress to return. This is first HR anywhere in 2020. pic.twitter.com/mzi3sZN21A— Bob Pompeani (@KDPomp) April 13, 2020
And that’s when the world discovered that the CPBL (Chinese Professional Baseball League) of Taiwan had started their season. As you can see in this clip, the stands are empty, but the games are going on. I was curious, so I Googled, and I found the site of CPBL Stats, and there I struck gold. If you want to go on your own voyage of discovery about CPBL, dig into their fabulous English post with links to even more in-depth coverage of the league:
Quick Guide to 2020 CPBL Season - CPBL STATS
If you want the even quicker guide to watching baseball from Taiwan, read on.
Taiwan’s timezone is GMT+8, and Toronto is GMT-4, which puts us 12 hours different. That means, a baseball game in the evening in Taiwan is on first thing in the morning here. I watched half of a game this morning over breakfast. I have my team picked out already, and they won today! So far this baseball fandom thing is going great.
CPBL Stats says the games are close to Double A MLB level, and the foreign players and returning Taiwanese players came from Double A and above usually. There are a few players with MLB experience in the league, as well. Today, I watched Henry Sosa pitch for the Fubon Guardians. Sosa, 34, is from the Dominican Republic, and he pitched in his first game in MLB in 2011, where he appeared in a handful of games. He tried some Korean baseball, played some more minor league ball in America, and then headed back to Korea in 2014. He’s in his first year in Taiwan.
Sosa is pretty typical of the level of player in the league, and he got the win today, so he’s my favourite player already. Much like most European hockey leagues, the majority of the players are local, with a few imports on each team.
The CPBL has five teams this season, and there was one game playing this morning pitting the Guardians in blue against the astonishingly golden-clad Chinatrust Brothers. You can see both teams in this clip with the Guardians in their whites:
#CTBros' 張志豪 (Chang Chih-Hao) runs down a deep fly ball and makes a slick sliding catch at the warning track. #CPBL 🕷️ pic.twitter.com/4OOYetonwR— CPBL STATS (@GOCPBL) May 8, 2019
In this clip, you can see the Guardians in their blues, and well.... you’ll see...
#Fubon Guardians' 林益全 (Lin Yi-Chuan) goes opposite field for his 5th HR of the season. #CPBL #BatFlip pic.twitter.com/zVIPsX9Bmx— CPBL STATS (@GOCPBL) May 18, 2019
CPBL Stats says Lin Yi-Chuan is the guy to watch. He’s a 34-year-old first baseman, and he could set a hit record in the league this year. If that’s not enough reason to cheer for the Guardians, then what about this:
Fans often view the Fubon Guardians as a team that crumble under pressure. On paper, the Guardians supposed to be the best team in the CPBL with plenty of top tier players on their active roster. However, time after time, they failed to deliver.
Whenever the Guardians were in the situations where a win would put them on the top, instead of riding on the momentum, they often crashed into a wall and missed the opportunity.
There is something wrong with the team, and the Guardians’ front office is definitely trying to fix that. Their solution is to sign the best manager in the CPBL and let Hong I-Chung bring his winning formula over to the Guardians.
So, really, how can a Leafs/Jays fan resist this combination of talent, beautiful uniforms, a mildly insolent hot hitter and a reputation like that?
Now we need to watch these guys!
First to find out when a game is on, there is a guide for using the official schedule website. Obviously if you read Chinese or have a friend you can get to help, you don’t need this, but for the rest of us it’s a help.
You can see the dates and team logos without any help, and the times for the games are obvious. The Guardians play the Brothers again Wednesday at 18:35 (the usual start time for weekday games), which is 6:35 am Toronto time. Chen Shipeng is pitching for Fubon and Huan Enci for the Brothers. (I say that like I didn’t just click a link at random and then use Google translate to read it.)
Once a game is underway, the spot on the schedule site where the time is turns into a link to the box score like this one from today:
Now, for the important part: How to watch the games.
I watched today on Yahoo Sports Taiwan, which streams online, and it was okay quality, pixelated now and then. It also had Chinese commentary, but a fully comprehensible on-screen score box with English abbreviations for strikes, balls, outs, etc. The Guardians Yahoo page will have a streaming link when the game is on, if you scroll down, and it will be clearly marked with LIVE. They have full replays of games, video clips, and everything you’d expect. The Brothers have a Twitch stream which makes for really good quality viewing.
The other game on Wednesday is the Monkeys vs the Lions, and this game is available in English according to the Eleven Sports Twitter:
#CPBL Starting pitcher for 2020/4/15:#UniLions :— ELEVEN SPORTS TW (@ElevenSportsTW) April 14, 2020
Pan Wei-Lun(#潘威倫)#RakutenMonkeys ：
Ryan Carpenter#LIVE on ELEVENSPORTS Twitter with English Commentary.@CPBL https://t.co/cLvuRxfzby pic.twitter.com/1dz15sZkE2
The site that I’m getting all this information from isn’t called CPBL Stats for no reason, they list the old fashioned stats on their main site, and have advanced stats on http://my.cpblstats.com/. If you are getting twitchy without any analytics, this might help.
Once you’re fully hooked on becoming a fan of the CPBL and the Guardians, you can get the entire season on a paid online streaming platform for $35 US.
It is more than a little odd watching baseball with no fans. I watched one KHL playoff game played that way pre-cancellation, and it was much weirder. But it’s also fun, and a great opportunity to learn about Taiwan and baseball there. It’s literally the only game in town, too.
The moral of this story is that the world is small, bat flips are universal and if there’s a sport going on, there’s a blogger covering it lovingly. May we all be fully occupied soon.
Now. Go, Guardians, Go!