11/06/11 10:00 AM EST
MLB All-Stars wrap up memorable Taiwan tour
Games, events, travel highlight successful international trip
By Doug Miller / MLB.com
This week in Taiwan, 28 Major League players, a five-man coaching staff and an extensive traveling party of family, friends, media members and MLB officials descended upon a land of culture, tradition, pride and big league baseball passion.
They played five games in three cities against the Chinese Taipei national team, but they experienced much more than that.
When asked prior to their flight home what they'll remember the most, the now-alumni of the 2011 Taiwan All-Star Series provided a string of snapshots -- images and moments preserved in their cameras and hearts to cherish for a lifetime.
Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano -- an instant celebrity in Taiwan -- standing alongside his father, Jose, who played here for five years, as the two presented a check to charity after a first-day home run derby at Xinzhuang Stadium in Taipei City.
Yankees center fielder Curtis Granderson, flanked by two high school buddies who came to Taiwan as his guests, downing a shot of snake blood at the famed Huaxi Street Night Market in Taipei as crowds swarmed around the Major Leaguers to take a look.
Reliever LaTroy Hawkins being one of the only players to try the odorous tofu soup from a street vendor in Taipei, and proudly announcing on the bus back to the hotel that, "It was pretty good."
Rockies infielder Ty Wigginton staring out the observation-deck windows of Taipei 101, the second-tallest building in the world, and looking out over the vast expanse of Taipei's largest urban center.
Reds reliever Bill Bray staring in solemn silence at the dramatic changing of the guard ceremony at the Martyrs Shrine to honor Taiwanese casualties of war outside of Taipei City.
Nationals first baseman Michael Morse heading into the cage during batting practice in Taichung Intercontinental Baseball Stadium wearing a typical Taiwanese moped helmet -- specially emblazoned with the curly Washington "W."
Tigers lefty Phil Coke standing on the top dugout step in Taichung with mouth agape at the intricacy, precision and vibrant colors of a drum-and-dragon dance routine during pregame ceremonies.
Marlins outfielder Logan Morrison bargaining with jewelry-stand proprietors during a bustling Friday morning at the Taichung jade market.
D-backs third baseman Ryan Roberts walking alongside his wife, Kim, and holding his 2-year-old daughter, Hudsyn, as they smiled and shook their heads at yet another fan holding up a homemade "Tatman" sign.
Orioles starter Jeremy Guthrie being greeted by a packed auditorium at an American high school in Taichung, and telling the students to not let anyone get in the way of their goals.
Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval frolicking in the outfield in Taichung, mobbed by local Little Leaguers eager to pose for photos and speak Mandarin with their favorite panda, the "Kung Fu Hsung Mao."
Taiwanese fans knowing the players' bus and train schedules better than anyone in the MLB traveling party, welcoming the club in droves as they arrived at the Kaohsiung train station after a high-speed rail trip from Taichung.
Nationals pitchers Collin Balester and Ross Detwiler crashing the Kaohsiung news conference of their Washington teammate -- and Taiwan's national athletic hero -- Chien-Ming Wang's long-awaited interview just to say hello.
The players of the Chinese Taipei national team working tough at-bats, running the bases hard, playing good defense and putting up a fight in all five games.
Giants and MLB All-Stars manager Bruce Bochy shaking his head in amazement at the background noise at the games: the horns, the non-stop chanting, the public address announcer's booming and ongoing commentary, the thundersticks crashing because the fans can't get enough.
Wang leaving the Cheng-Ching Stadium field to a standing ovation in front of his countrymen.
And those were just a handful of moments depicting how important it is for Major League Baseball to continue to travel around the world and open up opportunities for its players and its ever-reaching global base of fans to connect in the simple language of balls, strikes, hits and runs.
"We would love to come back to Taiwan, especially when you see the reception we've gotten," MLB Asia vice president Jim Small said. "I think there's no doubt that we'll be back here again."
And don't be surprised if some of these very same players come back, eager to fill their iPhones, hard drives and photo albums with more indelible memories.
"To see the smiles on the faces of the local people here has been great," Guthrie said. "We had a great group of guys, and it's been really fan-friendly, signing autographs, taking pictures, and that's when you see those smiles.
"That's what we're here for."