All-Stars eager for upcoming Taiwan Series
Club tabbed for week of exhibitions after Saturday flight
ANAHEIM -- A team of Major League stars that wasn't fortunate enough to participate in the World Series was all smiles anyway Friday afternoon at Angel Stadium, mere hours before the Cardinals were crowned 2011 champions following their Game 7 Fall Classic triumph over the Texas Rangers.
That's because this club was getting ready for a Saturday departure for a world series of its own.
This one will take them to Taiwan, where, for the first time, Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association will send an All-Star team for a week of exhibitions across the Pacific against the Chinese Taipei national team in the 2011 Taiwan All-Star Series.
After a light Friday workout under the supervision of manager Bruce Bochy, whose regular gig is skipper of the 2010 World Series champion San Francisco Giants, the MLB team gathered at a nearby hotel to rest up for a long Saturday morning flight to Taipei, where the team will get ready for the first of five games played between Nov. 1-6 in three different cities -- New Taipei City (XinZhuang Stadium) on Nov. 1, Taichung (Intercontinental Stadium) on Nov. 3 and 4 and Kaohsiung (Chengcing Lake Stadium) on Nov. 5 and 6.
"It's an honor, and the guys are into it," Bochy said. "We look forward to seeing Taiwan and their culture and their brand of baseball. We're taking the best players in the world to go play baseball. It doesn't get any better than this."
The team's headliners include Yankees center fielder Curtis Granderson, who led the Major Leagues in runs scored (136) and ranked second in the Majors with 41 home runs, and his teammate, Robinson Cano, who was second in the AL with 118 RBIs.
The roster also consists of 2011 National League All-Star third baseman Pablo Sandoval of the Giants and his teammate outfielder Andres Torres, plus Florida outfielder Logan Morrison and two members of the Washington Nationals -- slugger Mike Morse and pitcher Ross Detwiler. Nationals pitcher Chien-Ming Wang, a native of Taiwan, will pitch for the national team of his home country.
"It means a lot," Torres said. "It's a great experience to be with a lot of good players, go to Taiwan, play with a lot of real players, see different cultures. I'm excited. I look forward to going there and doing our best there.
"We're going to have fun. That's why we're going there. We're going to play the game and have fun."
But they'll compete, too, if Bochy has any say in the matter. The Giants manager said he expects his team to try to win while also serving as ambassadors for the game and for the players' individual teams and countries.
"We plan on having a good time," Bochy said, "but we plan on playing good baseball, too."
Part of the "good time" scheduling includes a high-speed rail trip, sightseeing tours in two of the cities, a visit to the observation deck of Taipei 101, the second-tallest building in the world, and possible forays into the creative side of Taiwanese cuisine for the adventurous eaters in the group.
On the baseball side, in addition to the games and off-day workouts, the team will take part in an introductory press conference Sunday upon arrival, several player appearances, a home run derby on Oct. 31, clinics, signings and charity events.
"All the rest of my international tours have been on the ambassador side helping to promote the game, teach the game, grow the game, and of course we're going to be doing that here," Granderson said. "But we're getting the chance to play, too. "
The most recent MLB trip to Taiwan was in March 2010, when the Dodgers traveled to the country to play a two-game series against the Chinese Professional Baseball League All-Stars.
Bochy, meanwhile, has skippered two MLB All-Star contingents that toured Japan. This time around, he filled out his coaching staff with his current Giants bench coach, Ron Wotus, his bullpen catcher, Billy Hayes, Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt and Tampa Bay Rays hitting coach Derek Shelton.
Other than having fun and soaking in a memorable new experience, Sandoval said the plan for the week is very simple.
"Respect the game and play the game hard," he said.
"And [just enjoy] seeing how they play and what it's like over there."