Home Runs Everywhere
Introduced a century ago by Japan when Taiwan was a colony, baseball is easily the island’s most popular sport with notoriously raucous and excitable fans.
The league has been peppered with betting scandals — most recently in 2009, after which attendance plunged.
But crowd size and enthusiasm has bounced back, especially after former MLB star slugger Manny Ramirez briefly joined the league in 2013 and reignited a frenzy of interest.
Those tuning in from abroad will see “an offensive style of baseball”, according to DuBreuil, who lived in Taiwan for 11 years.
“There are some really great hitters and the runs are through the roof. There are home runs everywhere,” he said.
Alongside Taiwan, South Korea is the only professional league now running.
This season the usually packed stands in Taiwan have been devoid of fans as part of anti-virus measures — although from Friday, a maximum of 1,000 spectators will be allowed in with social distancing measures in place.
Thanks to effective tracing, quarantine and testing, Taiwan has reported just 439 confirmed cases and six deaths despite its close proximity to China.
As Rakuten Monkeys took on Chinatrust Brothers last weekend, the home stands were filled with mannequins and life-sized, cardboard pictures of fans dressed in Rakuten’s red colors.
A troupe of robots banged drums while the team’s cheerleaders broadcast their dance routines to fans on mobile phones. One dancer even live-streamed herself eating barbecued food.