TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The buses pulled up in the crowded, neon-lit neighborhood on the old west side of Taipei City on Monday evening, and as soon as the players exited in front of the always-present legion of camera-wielding fans, it was on.
They had reached "Snake Alley," and it was time to drink some snake blood.
And no, this was not some Halloween prank.
One of the fun things to do in this part of Taiwan is to head over to one of the "night markets" around the city, where you can gorge on the many culinary delicacies of the region, haggle with boisterous shop owners on prices for shoes or candy or snacks, and yes, drink the blood of a serpent.
There were differing opinions as to why certain members of Major League Baseball's All-Star team, here to play a five-game series against the Chinese Taipei national team that begins Tuesday in Xinzhuang Stadium, would take on such an ominous-sounding challenge, but the denizens of the Huaxi Street Night Market crowded around to see their athletic heroes dive right in.
"I didn't travel halfway around the world to not do what the natives do, so I'm going to try it," said relief pitcher LaTroy Hawkins, moments before watching the proprietor of the shop sacrifice the snake and pour its blood into shot glasses for about a dozen of the adventurous players to try.
"It wasn't bad at all," Hawkins said. "It's supposed to give you stamina and help with the beauty of your skin. You should try it."
Outfielder Andres Torres liked it so much that he did at least three shots of the blood.
"I just want to try different things," Torres said. "I think it's pretty cool. It's a different culture, so you embrace it. Why not? Plus it's supposed to give you energy, and we're playing tomorrow, so we'll be ready."
Marlins outfielder Logan Morrison sucked down a gimlet of the concoction and said he thought it tasted like wine.
"I'm definitely going to hit home runs on this trip now," he said. "I'm going to have powers like Spider-Man, but more snake-like powers."
Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano declined to try the blood at the first shop, but when the players came across a second one, Cano relented -- after convincing his father, Jose, to try it, too. As it turned out, both walked away from the experience thinking it wasn't such a big deal.
"I never drank it before in my years playing in Taiwan because nobody would drink it with me," Jose said. "But I finally tried it."
Infielder Ty Wigginton took the plunge, too, and claimed he was a tad nervous at first but that it dissipated soon after throwing it down the hatch.
"I figured it's once in a lifetime," Wigginton said. "You might as well give it a shot. Hopefully it does bring me some powers. That would be cool. I can always use a little help."
Meanwhile, the MLB manager for this tour, Giants skipper Bruce Bochy, said he admired his team's courage in volunteering for such an exotic and mysterious undertaking.
"I think it's great," Bochy said. "You get pumped up for the game, and they're looking for blood here. There are some warriors on this club to be trying this stuff. It's good to see."
The first game of the series, played at XinZhuang Stadium in New Taipei City, will air on MLB Network on Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET. Games 2 and 3, played at Intercontinental Stadium in Taichung, will air on Thursday and Friday at 9 p.m. ET; and Games 4 and 5, played at Chengcing Lake Stadium in Kaohsiung, will air at 5 p.m. ET on Saturday and at 9 p.m. ET on Sunday.