This is a two part post because I quite simply couldn’t keep the word count down but I compensate with more pictures than usual.
Shortly after finding out that the Uni Lions first game of the new season would be against Brother Elephants, I knew I had to be there. With the rotation of venues this season, it means that not every game is going to be accessible but I’m going to make a good crack at attending as many weekend games as I can.
Of course there was always going to be that little voice in my head saying, “This is a crazy idea. Why bother?”. It was understandable, I’d seen the Lions get hammered twice by the Elephants in Tainan at the back end of last season and on the opening night, there was every chance it would happen again. I left it a couple of days after the Heroes game before deciding, “Sod it, let’s do it” and bought train tickets for the 195 mile journey north.
In the week leading up to the game I couldn’t contain my excitement and anyone I told, I emphasized the point I was going to see the Lions. I guess it seemed strange, prior to coming to Taiwan I knew nothing about baseball and had showed no interest in it all. And yet, here I was about to make the 2nd longest journey possible to an away game.
It got to the Monday before the game and I thought I better try and buy a ticket in advance and that turned out to be fun! I went on the home side’s website to find that there was barely any tickets in the covered stands for sale, and I quickly got myself on Google Translate. I signed up for an account and after an hour of working things out, I had bought a ticket or I thought I had!
I had to go an ibon machine which is a machine that have in 7 Eleven but which is all in Chinese. Now, the Lions website showed how to buy tickets on the machine which screen by screen steps and I took a few photos and thought, I should be able to work it out once I got on the machine.
I got to 7 Eleven, and it took about 15 minutes of persistence, working out that on one screen on button meant ‘Buy’ and the other meant ‘Collect’. As soon as I passed that hurdle I was in, and took my receipt to the counter where I was handed my ticket. At a time when I was feeling low with anxiety attacks, it felt like a great achievement.
It eventually got to Saturday night and I made sure I relaxed myself. It was going to be a long journey, with a 7:11am train out of Tainan and I’d been suffering from a sore throat all week. I went out for some food, had a couple of beers and after following Sheffield Wednesday’s win against Charlton, eventually hit the pillow at 2:30am.
The next morning, I was up before my alarm and it made a change but I was well organised. I had a shower, made sure my jumper, umbrella and ticket were in my bag and I set off at 6:40am.
I got outside and it was raining which was a bit of a surprise. This was one concern, the forecast for the entire island was for rain all day and there was every chance I wasn’t going to see a game. It was a thought I managed to put to the back of my mind and I was at the train station about 15 minutes later. In spite of hunger, there wasn’t much choice of food in 7 Eleven and I bought 3 bottles of tea, some fruit and chocolate cake and made my way onto the platform for the 7:11am train to Taipei.
I was expecting the 6 hours to drag but it didn’t, I stayed awake for the first hour and then once the train got to Chiayi, put my head inside my jumper and nodded off for the next 3 hours. The last 2 hours were spent looking out the window with my earphones in before arrival into Taipei 4 minutes late at 1:15pm.
I had time to waste, and I bought myself an all day metro ticket before heading over to Zhongxiao Danhua. I planned to have lunch in a restaurant called Du Hsiao Yueh and when I arrived, found I had to wait for about 10 minutes before I could myself a place inside. I had come to try Dan Zai noodles and ordered myself two bowls and a bowl of braised pork rice, with oolong tea to drink.
It was a very tasty lunch and after a long journey it was great to get some proper food inside myself. I finished, paid the bill and thought with 2 hour 30 minutes before the baseball, I could take a convoluted route on the MRT to get there. I got on the MRT and headed to the blue line’s eastern terminus before making my way upstairs and getting on the brown line and heading back west into towards central Taipei.
Whilst most of the Taipei Metro is underground, the brown line is fully overground and the scenery out in the north east part of the city was nothing short of spectacular even on a cloudy day. I got off at Nanjing Fuxing, took the green line one stop to Songjiang Nanjing and changed onto an orange line train bound for Huilong. By now, I had decided to make my Lions shirt fully visible with it over a 2nd t-shirt and I received quite a lot of curious stares which was no surprise.
I got off at Xinzhuang and there was 1 hour 10 minutes to go before the start. I knew that I was going to stand out, 1) As a foreigner and 2) My Lions t-shirt. I followed the signposts towards the ground and there was already a lot of people in Elephants colours and merchandise. I popped into a 7 Eleven, got myself some beer and suddenly that match-day buzz hit me. All of a sudden, the adrenaline was pumping a little harder and I was really excited.
I got to the ground, and entered. Now unlike in football, baseball fans are not segregated and away fans are freely allowed to mingle. It took me a moment to work out where I was going, but the concourse was packed. There was merchandise stalls, food stalls, even a mini 7 Eleven. The stadium was fairly impressive with the lower tier bowl down the steps, and above, upstairs second tier.
I got upstairs and it took me a moment to take in the stadium. It was an impressive sight and it took me a moment to find out I was sitting, I was 2/3rds the way down the left field line on row 6 of 8, on the end seat of block 17A. Just above my head the roof line ended and it meant that the end blocks were uncovered. The larger lower tier of about 15 rows looked to be mostly covered whilst the 8 row upper tier also looked to be most covered aside from the end blocks. The outfield consisted of about 11 rows of uncovered seating but not many had purchased seats out there.
All was going well, I cracked a beer open and started munching on the duck burrito I had bought. There was 20 minutes until the start and the pre game ceremonies had started when disaster struck…