October 31, 2014

Taiwan Trip is Part of the Dodgers DNA

And so it begins…the Dodgers have arrived in Taiwan and completed their first international press conference of their four days in Asia.

I know this trip is an inconvenience on many levels, including the logistical issues and obvious delays in the Spring Training program, but I don’t think it’s nearly as disruptive as events such as the World Baseball Classic. In fact, I would argue that the only people that the Taiwan trip really may impact at all are the pitchers that go. Steve Lyons was saying on yesterday’s televised Dodgers-Diamondbacks game that batters only need about 40 at-bats to find their rhythm, while pitchers need the additional time to find their groove. Of course, the flip side of this argument is that there are now a bunch of minor leaguers at Camelback Ranch that are relishing the extra time they’re getting in real game action, and this will only enhance their development.

Plus, I’m a sucker for history, and the Dodgers connection with Asia is something that I’m glad the McCourt’s are continuing. It would be very easy for them to pass on opportunities like this for a number of reasons (even if Major League Baseball is paying for it).

Per the Dodgers:

The Dodger franchise’s ties to the continent of Asia date to 1956, when the Brooklyn Dodgers took part in a postseason tour of Japan. Since that time, the team has stayed intricately involved in the worldwide expansion of baseball, becoming the first Major League team to open an office in Asia (1998), the first to play a game in Taiwan (1993) and the first to host a game in China (2008).

And it’s for this reason, that I think the trip is worthwhile. The Dodgers are trailblazers, and international firsts have become part of the DNA of the franchise: they toured Japan (1956, 1966 and 1993). They played exhibition games across the Western Hemisphere, including Puerto Rico (1988) and Mexico (1964, 1991 and 2003).  They held Spring Training in Havana, Cuba in 1941-42 and in the Dominican Republic in 1948.  The Dodgers opened Campo Las Palmas in the Dominican Republic in 1987, marking the first time a MLB franchise has opened a baseball academy outside of the U.S., developing future Dodgers players, including Adrian Beltre, Pedro Martinez, Raul Mondesi and Pedro Astacio, among others.  Furthering baseball abroad is simply part of the legacy of the club.

Ok, back to Taiwan. I also love this series for a bunch of other reasons than just the history:

I love that the first two games sold out in record time.

I love that the Taiwanese fans care about which players attend (and don’t attend).

I love that Chin-Feng Chen (the first Taiwanese player to appear in an MLB game) will face his former team during this series for the first time.

I love that the Dodgers players are excited about making the trip (or are getting paid $170,000 in personal appearance fees to attend).

I love the passion of the fans. After experiencing the electric atmosphere at the World Baseball Classic finals at Dodger Stadium last year, I bet the games will take on a life of their own.

Secretly, I hope that all of this means that the Dodgers have an inside-edge (along with the Mariners and their Japanese ownership) on signing the best free agents coming out of Asia. Maybe that’s not true in today’s world, but hey, I’m a fan and I have my own hopes for the team, no matter how unrealistic they are.

Let’s play ball! (and you know I would have said that in Taiwanese if I knew how!)

Photo credit: Jon SooHoo/LA Dodgers