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Thursday, January 6, 2022

Fubon Angels


 During the lockdown period, all the US and Canadian sports shut down. International cricket held on the longer with, as I recall it, the Pakistani league being the last one up and running. After that, there was a sports wasteland. 

THEN, Taiwan started baseball back up (May God ever bless and keep them). At first they did it with Chinese commentary and then they realized they were getting an international audience they started English commentary as well. I was getting up to watch 5 am baseball games on Twitter (it may have been my last serious use of that toxic site). Go Fubon Guardians!

At first, I was just happy for the baseball. It was interesting to watch it being played in empty stadiums and, having gone to a lot of minor league games, I was able spot the games as about AA level. That means it was solid ball play most of the time.

The interesting thing was that the cheerleaders were out there doing their job despite the lack of fans in the stands. After a while, you start to realize that the cheerleaders are a big part of the game experience over there. I've seen baseball cheerleaders in some few US stadiums (the Rome Braves spring to mind), but they weren't an integral part of the experience. They are in Taiwan. That became incredibly obvious when they started allowing fans back in and you realized they were paying as much or more attention to the cheerleaders as the game.

The video above follows the Fubon Angels, the cheerleaders for the the Fubon Guardians (clever). I don't speak Chinese (I shudder at the thought of learning a tonal language that requires one to memorize every single word in its entirety), but I think most of it speaks for itself. I'm not sure, but I think it may be harder to become one of these ladies than it is to make it on the baseball team itself.

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Best Pics - The Way Back

As always, click on a pic to see it larger.


El Paso, Texas:
St. Louis:

Somewhere in Illinois:

Chicago Train Station - The Great Hall:

I'm fairly certain the statue on the left is Minerva and I think the one on the right is Mercury.

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Touristing in Monterey

As always, click on the pics to get a better view.

Pacific Grove: And baby makes three - As I walked down to the local bakery to get breakfast, I saw these seagulls being good parents.

Monterey: The Aquarium - It was hard to get good pics in the aquarium because of the glass and the lighting being used, but I did get some.

The puffins and the penguins did not look happy to be there and their display cages looked entirely too small to my untrained eye.

I don't remember what I was trying to take a pic of, but this guy was bound and determined that he was going to be the subject of my pictures. He swam by every time and I got some really sharp pics of him.

Sadly, when the otters were active I was at the bottom of the tank. It was fun watching them dive and swim although those pics turned out horrible. I swear they were mugging for the crowd. By the time I got to the top viewing area later in the day only this guy was out in view and he was plain tuckered.

The walk to Fisherman's Wharf. It started on Cannery Row and turned into a walk down a path near the beach.

A seal sleeping on a rock.

In fact, three seals sleeping on rocks.

This was hilarious. The sign was in a place where there was no way to retreat upland. It was a walking path with beach to the front and a wall/embankment on the other side. If you ran forward a few hundred feet you could get off the path and be surrounded by lots of pretty flat land. I guess, depending on the strength and height of the tsunami, you could get into the nearby hotel, get to the top floor, and pray. All-in-all, if you need this warning it's too late.

Fisherman's Wharf: Part of the whole Steinbeck tourism shtick. Nothing here has anything to do with the fishing industry anymore except for the many restaurants on the pier and the whale tours at the far end. I think I went here twice thirty years ago when the Army had me stationed at the Presidio and now I've gone a third time.

Best Pics on the Way

Click on the picture to blow it up and see it in its full glory.

 The first few are from California:


Pics from Colorado:

Pics from New Mexico:

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Greed and Over-Reaching - The Tennessee Smokies' Future?

 In 1999, minor league baseball failed in Knoxville, Tennessee. The team fled to Sevierville (about 30 minutes from downtown Knoxville) where it has a very nice modern stadium, good parking, and extremely easy access to and from the stadium. Benefiting from loyal Knoxvillians who make the drive out, a large tourist crowd from the Gatlinburg-Sevierville area, and a previously untapped market East of Smokies Stadium out to Kingsport and Johnson City and even into Far Southwestern Virginia,1 the team has flourished. 

Naturally, this means that Boyd Sports LLC has decided it must stab Sevierville in the back and put the Smokies back in Knoxville.

Things to Consider

(1) Boyd Sports may be moving this way because of a failing business model:  Boyd is one team short of a monopoly over professional baseball in Eastern Tennessee (lacking only one team of five). It's worked hard to get there and make this work - only to have MLB pull the rug out from under them with the Rookie League teams. It's not final yet, but it appears that the MLB is set on killing baseball in smaller cities in Eastern Tennessee, Southwest Virginia, Southern West Virginia, and even North Carolina by destroying the Appalachian League. This will take three teams (and their potential profits) away from Boyd. The reason Boyd Sports may be pushing desperately for this plan is a hope of recouping profits it will no longer make elsewhere.

(2) Randy Boyd is the President of UT. Almost certainly, part of the pitch will be that UT baseball can use the field too. Pay no attention to the fact that their current stadium is on campus, has more seats than it needs2, and just went through a major renovation. Shared stadiums work well for lower level teams and are usually on campus. A reversal of that will probably lead to fewer students actually going to games and maybe lower numbers period.

(3) It's doubtful that anyone will replace the Smokies in Sevierville. There was talk of putting a rookie league team there, but there's almost a 100% chance that the Appalachian League will be killed by MLB. Besides, it's too big a stadium for anything less than an Advanced A or AA team. Perhaps the best hope would be to draw in a team performing poorly where it is located currently. For instance the Hagerstown Suns have been limping along trying to sell to somebody ANYBODY for most of a decade now. However, if the Appalachian League is killed off, a new owner would likely be more interested in Greeneville (better stadium) or Johnson City (bigger crowds) as more appropriate venues for a Single-A team than an overly large, expensive to maintain stadium which will maybe draw half the crowds it did with the Smokies because people won't be coming out from Knoxville anymore. 

Maybe an independent league could be interested, but I think Sevierville is too far out of zone for the American Association or the Frontier League. The only real hope would be the Atlantic League. Sevierville is out of its regular zone, but so are the Skeeters (Texas) and to a lesser degree the Rockers (West-Central NC). So there might be some hope if a good enough ownership group and  pitch could be made.

(4) Boyd Sports will abandon maybe half its current fanbase with the move in the hopes of drawing the same number from making it easier for city dwellers to get there. After all, people on vacation in Gatlinburg-Sevierville generally aren't looking to drive into a city. What's more, as you get East of Sevierville it makes more sense to drive to Asheville to watch the Tourists instead of Knoxville. It's a shorter drive, it's a cheaper ticket with no charge for parking, and Asheville is a tourist destination with other things to do.

(5) Boyd Sports isn't solely concentrating on the number of fans in the stands. Obviously, I haven't seen their projections, but this picture tends to indicate that they plan to have hotels or apartments, stores, and restaurants as part of the stadium:

Picture Put Out by Boyd Sports

So, it seems that a large portion of their profits are intended to come from rental income. As usual, I'm sure this is being sold as "downtown revitalization." This is the big puff of modern stadium sellers. I've been to a number of these stadiums and they seem to be very hit and miss with my impression being that the numbers lean rather heavily toward the miss side.

Think about it. Why would you want to pay premium rates to rent a hotel room or an apartment when half the rooms face away from the field and most of the rest give you a poor view of it. And if you're trying to work or sleep the blaring from the PA system and the fireworks are not conducive. As for businesses, they'll pay premium rents and hope to make good money prior to and maybe after games. Their problem is that the stadium experience is designed to draw people into the stadium, keep them in the stadium, and to suck their money out of them while inside. Outside merchants usually catch crumbs.

Worse, for everyone, stadiums go dark from 01 September until mid-April and are dead half the time during the Summer. There may be events in that time, but during the summer they have to protect the field for the players and in the Winter an outdoor stadium gets too cold.

As I said, I've seen these stadiums and when I looked into the windows I saw an awful lot of empty rooms and business locations. Before Knoxville puts a lot of money into this it should talk to other cities. Plain old stadiums with all the bells and whistles inside for the fans seem a better plan (see Dayton, Nashville, Charlotte, Durham, Greenville, Birmingham etc.).

(6) It's going to happen. Owners have a ball club for three general reasons: (1) love of the game, (2) personal aggrandizement, and (3) profit. Mayors want baseball parks for three general reasons of their own: (1) as a prestige adornment for their city, (2) to "rebuild" troublesome areas in their city, and (3) political gain. Both ownership and the Knoxville government will most likely approach this with rose tinted glasses assuming everything will go swimmingly and make the city a better and richer place for all. And, with the possible exception of Gwinnet, there's always a honeymoon phase of about five years when a new team comes to town before the cracks start getting noticed. And there's always the possibility that they'll get it to work. Maybe.

As a practical matter, Boyd Sports has already bought the land for the new stadium, so something is going to happen. As well, the local fans know the owner is looking to betray them and the numbers are dropping. They'll probably continue to do so, although the numbers have been more resilient than I would have expected looking at attendance drops in Hagerstown or Richmond or other places. I think this is because a good portion of the fans are coming from Knoxville or are tourists in Gatlinburg-Sevierville just looking for a good night's entertainment. I don't know that we'll see the purposeful discouraging of attendance that sometimes happens when a team is moving, although I do expect the downward trend to continue. I know personally that I'll probably look more toward Asheville when next season opens than I have in the past. If the owner is going to yank the team, why should I support his pocketbook?


1  This would be me, but not only me. Everyone here is used to going to Gatlinburg/Dollywood for vacations. Driving a couple hours for a baseball game or including it as part of a weekend vacation is pretty normal.

2  4,283 seats. To put that in perspective, only the eleven highest attended college baseball programs of 2019 would need a bigger stadium. UT isn't even in the top 25. The 25th, NC State, averaged 2,596 people per game.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Fun Pickoff Play in the CPBL, a breakdown

The yellow team is the CTBC Brothers; the orange is the UniLions. This is part of the fun of watching this league and the others in Asia. It's sad to say, but the gravamen of the game is switching to Japan-Korea-Taiwan while the MLB is static (at best). It's interesting to watch when US teams play teams from Asia and it's obvious that the Asian teams are fundamentally better at basics and more rounded in all aspects of the game. Often, the USA will win on sheer talent, but when the MLB doesn't allow the top 40 from each organization to play internationally that becomes less certain and we lose to Japan, Korea, or AUSTRALIA.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Another Way to Score

Click on Pic to Enlarge
Boer player is running home when he realizes he ain't gonna make it. He turns and starts to book it back to third. He freezes when he sees the third baseman prepping to catch the ball and starts to turn back toward home and the throw from the catcher hits him mid turn. The angle he's turned at when hit sends the ball skittering across the field and the runner completes his turn and makes it home.

Pro tip: A runner hit by a thrown ball is not interference unless the runner purposefully does something to make it happen.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Countries Where They Love Baseball

One of these is from Korea, one from Taiwan, and one from Nicaragua. Each country is playing baseball.

You can play in fancy stadiums or functional stadiums. It's about love of the game and these folks all clearly love the sport.

Nicaragua Packs the Stands in Baseball

From Last night's game between Indios del Boer and Esteli. Part of the fun is watching baseball with fans in the stands.

It's not as glossy, it's not in English, and it's only on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Still, they're my favorite games to watch out there right now. Channels to check - YouTube: vivanicaragua13 (follows Boer) (always high quality) - FaceBook: Canal22via (follows Costa Caribe) (good quality, but some places they visit have poor internet up) - Facebook: Cogelasena (I think follows Chinandega Tigres) (low res).

Friday, May 8, 2020

Taiwan Lets Fans Back in Baseball

Today was the first day that the CPBL (Taiwanese Baseball) let fans back into their stadiums.

They let in 1,000 fans, no one could sit closer than two seats from another, and most of them were located in a loose X pattern. They didn't allow food in the stadium although apparently the restaurants outside the stadium were open. They did allow water because it's Taiwan and the high for the day was 90f.

It was fun watching them do the routines and I can't wait to see the stadiums full. They interviewed their top medical official during the game and he was talking about raising the number allowed per game to 2,000 pretty much immediately and higher soon.

And the home team Guardians won a great game to watch 7-6 over the UniLions. Go Guardians!!