TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The stars of Major League Baseball might have been a bit jet-lagged when they arrived in Taipei on Sunday evening for the beginning of the 2011 Taiwan All-Star Series, but the passion of the local fans and the media on hand to welcome them gave the players a boost of adrenaline that will likely last all week.
As soon as the team of Major League All-Stars cleared customs and walked through the Taoyuan International Airport concourse, they were received by adoring fans who snapped photographs, took video and cheered them on -- often chanting their names.
This continued at the Grand Hyatt in Taipei City, where a contingent that included the mayor and local baseball officials made it through a lobby packed with fans to a ballroom where the official greeting news conference took place.
Manager Bruce Bochy, sluggers Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson and reliever LaTroy Hawkins answered questions graciously. MLB Asia vice president Jim Small and MLB Players Association representative Tim Slavin also presented Washington Nationals jerseys emblazoned with the uniform No. 100 to local officials to honor the 100th year of the Chinese Republic, according to the Minguo calendar.
"After all these years waiting, we finally have Major League All-Stars in Taiwan, where we are so passionate," said Peng Cheng-hao, vice president of the Chinese Taipei Baseball Association, in his opening statements. And soon after he spoke, the mayor of New Taipei City, Dr. Eric Liluan Chu, admitted to being a bit starstruck by the two Bronx Bombers in attendance, Granderson and Cano.
"I am the No. 1 fan of MLB because I lived in New York for seven years, so of course I am a fan of the Yankees," he said. "Baseball is the national sport of Taiwan. Everyone in Taiwan likes baseball very much. ... So today is a new start for Taiwan."
And for the players, it's a new experience.
Cano said he heard great things about Taiwan from his father, former pitcher Jose Cano, who played for a Taiwanese team called the Wei Chuan Dragons in 1998 and '99. However, young Robbie never made it all the way across the globe from his native Dominican Republic to watch his dad in action.
"It's an honor to be here," Robinson Cano said. "I'm looking forward to playing against the best players in Taiwan. Also it's a dream come true. My dad played here for 11 months. Too bad I didn't make it here when I was young, but I'm happy now to be here and looking forward to the series."
Cano's sentiments were shared by Granderson, who played with Taiwanese pitcher Fu-Te Ni while a member of the Detroit Tigers, and said he still keeps the personalized glove with his name in Mandarin that Ni gave him as a gift. Granderson said he and Cano wanted to be a part of this trip when they first heard about it. Now, he can't wait to get started.
"We're looking forward to experiencing everything that Taiwan has to offer -- from the food to the culture to the great baseball," Granderson said.
And that's what Bochy promised. He admitted that it's been virtually impossible to scout the Chinese Taipei national team, which will be the All-Stars' opponent for five games played between Tuesday and Sunday in three different cities -- New Taipei City (XinZhuang Stadium) on Tuesday, Taichung (Intercontinental Stadium) on Thursday and Friday and Kaohsiung (Chengcing Lake Stadium) on Saturday and Sunday.
But Bochy said certain elements of baseball play know matter where you are in the world.
"In our game, we have so much video available and scouts, but we don't have very much info right now," Bochy said. "We'll work out tomorrow.
"This game's pretty simple, though. You go out there and you play hard, hopefully make your pitches, play defense and get your timely hits. That's what it always comes down to. Sometimes you get too much information. I know I've got orders from my general manager to bring back two outfielders. We need some help there in San Francisco. So I'll be scouting here, too."
As for Hawkins, expect him to scout the local noodle parlors, hot-pot shops and night markets for fresh local cuisine.
"Everyone talks about the food here and I like to eat, so that's one of the things I'm going to do. Stinky tofu. I want to try that," Hawkins said.
2011 MLB All-Stars in Taiwan
Balester, Collin (WAS)
Bell, Trevor (ANA)
Bray, Bill (CIN)
Coke, Phil (DET)
Detwiler, Ross (WAS)
Gee, Dillon (NYM)
Guthrie, Jeremy (BAL)
Hawkins, LaTroy (MIL)
Melancon, Mark (HOU)
Paulino, Felipe (KC)
Ramirez, Ramon (SF)
Thompson, Rich (ANA)
Veras, Jose (PIT)
Butera, Drew (MIN)
Mathis, Jeff (ANA)
Paulino, Ronny (NYM)
Aybar, Erick (ANA)
Cano, Robinson (NYY)
Morse, Michael (WAS)
Roberts, Ryan (ARI)
Sandoval, Pablo (SF)
Valencia, Danny (MIN)
Wigginton, Ty (COL)
Bonifacio, Emilio (FLA)
Granderson, Curtis (NYY)
Morrison, Logan (FLA)
Reddick, Josh (BOS)
Torres, Andres (SF)