Dodgers getting full experience in Taiwan
Manny and Co. take in sights before first exhibition game
TAIPEI, Taiwan -- If there was a jet lag price to pay for the 15-hour flight from Phoenix, it wasn't apparent as the Dodgers scattered for a whirlwind of sightseeing before Friday night's exhibition game.
It was Taipei in a day for the split squad, with Manny Ramirez appearing comfortable in the role of athlete/rock star. His face was on the cover of China Times in the morning and it was non-stop "paparazzi" all day as Ramirez took the tour of Taipei 101, the skyscraper that until recently was the tallest building in the world.
He bought a camera in the mall that fills the first five floors of the tower, later lunching on abalone and shark's fin soup in the fashionable 85th-floor restaurant, joined late by teammates James Loney, Kenley Jansen and Prentice Redman.
Ramirez was whisked away for a tree-planting appearance and press conference for the Taipei Flora Expo, where he was greeted by two dozen camera crews and the mayor of Taipei. Ramirez thanked the locals for their warm reception.
"I thank God for the opportunity to visit Taiwan," Ramirez said. "I thank you guys for letting the Dominican players come here to play the game I love. It's a great experience to be here in Taiwan, that's why I came here. I like to travel and see the world. You treat everybody with respect, and I'm just happy to be here."
Ramirez also has an autograph signing planned after Saturday's game at a batting cage, where promoters expect a turnout of 400. Ramirez was surrounded by about that many people as he shopped for the camera in the mall.
Speaking of autographs, manager Joe Torre stopped to sign for a few fans at the team hotel, but was soon overwhelmed by a sea of seekers.
"I'm signing, and all of a sudden it got out of control," said Torre. "They were so close, I couldn't sign. Really, if they weren't friendly people, it would have been scary. Swarm is the right word."
Torre, who started the day with his customary workout in the fitness center, later went shopping for jade. The little scare at the hotel hasn't taken the enjoyment out of the trip.
"It's an experience," he said. "I'm very impressed, coming in, with the enthusiasm. They are just genuine fans. That's pretty cool. That's the reason for the team to come to Taipei. You don't realize how far we reach."
Back at the Taiwan 101 tower, Loney, Jansen and Redman took the high-speed elevator to the 89th floor observation deck of Taiwan 101.
"I don't like it, it makes me dizzy, but I'll keep looking," Loney said.
Xavier Paul, Brian Barton, Trayvon Robinson and John Lindsay took a walking tour of the memorial to the late president Chiang Kai-shek, and were quickly surrounded by tourists seeking autographs and photos with American ballplayers.
"I feel like the Jonas Brothers -- no, make that the Jackson Five -- no, make that the Jackson Four," said Paul.
Hong-Chih Kuo and Chin-lung Hu, given the superstar treatment in their homeland, spent the day working promotional overtime. Both made Nike appearances. Kuo, a local spokesman for Subway sandwich shops, made a pair of autograph stops, while Hu took part in a news conference for MSI, a Taiwan computer company that is the Dodgers' newest sponsor.
Kuo and Hu then were joined at Taipei Municipal Tienmu Stadium by coaches Tim Wallach, Jim Slaton, Lorenzo Bundy and John Shoemaker in a clinic for 100 Little Leaguers.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.