Back in January we told out that the Sinon Bulls were no more. Instead a company called E-United Group bought the franchise, renamed it the EDA Rhinos, and moved the club to Kaohsiung.
But that wasn’t the biggest splash the Rhinos have made so far. About a month ago, we reported that the Rhinos have signed Manny Ramirez. On Wednesday night in Taiwan, Manny got his first action in the Chinese Professional Baseball League as a member of the EDA Rhinos.
Ramirez batted clean-up and went 2-for-6 in a 9-8, 12-inning loss to the Brother Elephants. But in the end the score wasn’t what really mattered.
The team set the attendance record with 20,000 fans showing up. I am not sure if this was just for this stadium or for the CPBL, but the former record was in 2004 with 18,342.
Manny’s two hits were both singles, but they differed greatly. In his second at-bat in the bottom of the second inning, Manny lined a breaking ball over the third baseman into left field for a single. That was his first hit for the Rhinos and after the play the ball was taken out of play.
Manny came back up in the bottom of the fourth inning with two outs and nobody on. This time he took a fastball the other way lining a single to right field. Video of both hits are below.
In his other at-bats Manny struck out, flew out to left field, and grounded out twice.
But it didn’t matter. Fans were out in force to support the biggest player ever to hit the island and play in the CPBL. Signs were made, fake dreads were worn, and there was even a case of mistaken identity by one fan who had a picture of Johnny Cueto and his dreads on a poster.
This is a big step for the CPBL. It is a small league of only four teams, but it is highly competitive often including former MLB players on the teams. Taiwan is also having a sort of reinvention of baseball on the island.
The island just hosted the first round of the World Baseball Classic where it saw its hometown team Chinese Taipei advance to the second round. It also saw the biggest crowd for a baseball game in its history when 23,431 fans showed up to watch Korea take on Chinese Taipei.
The league has had its share of hard times and scandals, but now it is on the international stage with a huge star like Manny Ramirez playing. I know they want to show pride in their team and country and put on a good display of baseball, which I think they will. No matter what happens with Manny we know it’s going to be an interesting ride.
Manny’s first hit.
Manny’s second hit.