棒棒傳續

投出好友誼
:::

2019 / 12月

文‧鄧慧純 圖‧莊坤儒


見證台灣與日本之間羈絆的還有「棒球」。

1895年,棒球由日本引介入台灣,至今在台灣扎根已逾百年。棒球可說是台灣的國球,一次次凝聚台灣社會成為一體。

2014年的電影《KANO》見證了台灣與日本是最佳的對手,也是相互支援的戰友。棒球是台日重要的交集點,晉級日本職棒是許多台灣選手的夢想,年輕學子選擇到日本高校留學,從學生棒球開始圓夢。今年夏天我們拜訪了九州,從福岡到宮崎,一路走訪台日交流的棒球故事。


那天,晴日朗朗,晚間六點才開打的棒球賽,下午三點,福岡巨蛋周邊已聚集了期待的人潮。大家三五成群討論著這季球賽的表現,粉絲們穿上支持球隊的球衣,用行動表示認同。只要遇到球賽的日子,空氣中總躍動著一股雀躍與期待。

1993年落成的福岡巨蛋,目前為日本職棒福岡軟銀鷹隊的主場,提到軟銀鷹,國人最熟悉的當屬球團會長王貞治。他自1995年起擔任福岡大榮鷹隊(現為福岡軟銀鷹隊)的監督,2008年球季結束後,告別人生50年的棒球生涯,退休轉任球隊最高顧問。

當天比賽是福岡軟銀鷹對上來自東北的樂天金鷲。開場前,兩隊球員在草坪上暖身,我們眼尖地看到身穿深藍色球衣、背號43號、來自台灣的投手宋家豪。

向自己發出的挑戰書

出身台東、曾是桃園龜山國小少棒隊的宋家豪,國立體育大學畢業後,2016年接受日本職棒樂天金鷲隊的契約,開啟旅日生涯。

趁著比賽前的小空檔,宋家豪接受我們簡短的訪問。身形有183公分高的宋家豪,聊起當初來日本職棒的考量,「一開始就夢想到日本打球,然後有了這個契機,雖說機會很小,但是想要挑戰自己,看自己能到什麼程度。」

這是宋家豪發出的挑戰書,競爭的對手是自己。來日本第四年的宋家豪,當初以育成選手身分進入樂天金鷲隊,不到兩年的時間,靠著努力躍昇一軍行列,並常有優異表現。2019年,宋家豪交出赴日以來單季最多出賽數,例行賽登板48場,拿下24個中繼點,防禦率2.18(指投手失分的比率),球季後半段更一度連19場無失分。

雖然未曾在台灣職棒歷練,但他覺得台日訓練的差異不大,「主要是競爭比較激烈,與選手的自主性。」「因為職業的舞台是大家去競爭的,所以你一定要認清自己的不足,再去加強。」清楚知道自己欠缺的,進行補強練習,是專業者的功課。

回想當初沉迷於棒球的原因,他直言是愛上球場的掌聲,「當你在場上有漂亮的表現,現場的掌聲會讓你很有自信心,讓你更有動力。」回首四年來,他很替自己驕傲,因為不斷地努力,每一年都看到自己的進步。每一場球賽都是難忘的記憶,也都是全力以赴的成績。

追隨那奔跑的背影

宋家豪的身影是許多棒球選手的夢想,也有許多年輕學子選擇早一步出發,國中畢業就到日本追夢。如目前仍效力日本職棒埼玉西武獅隊的吳念庭,畢業於日本岡山縣的共生高等學校;曾效力阪神虎隊的蕭一傑則出身宮崎縣的日南學園;而我們拜訪的「福岡第一高校」則是旅日選手陽岱鋼的母校,他自高校畢業後即加入北海道日本火腿鬥士隊,現服役於中央聯盟讀賣巨人隊,這次在世界12強棒球賽表現優異的張奕,也是出身該校。

藍懷謙和陳昶亨皆出身桃園,國中畢業後,經教練推薦,進入九州福岡第一高校就讀。

初見二人,身形中等,唯膚色黝黑,看來在大太陽下的練習肯定不少,或許年紀輕輕就把未來押注在棒球上,並篤實的踏出步伐,兩人的臉上有同年紀少見的成熟氣質。

棒球留學的生活並不輕鬆,課業結束在下午三點半,之後就是滿檔的棒球練習時間,直到夜間八九點。周末則是與各校的交流賽,通常一天打兩場,會碰到不同的球隊,可以經歷不同的選手。來到日本快三年,從來沒有假期,但他們沒有怨言,只為了一圓到日本打職棒的夢想。

從小就在球隊長大的兩人,觀察到日本與台灣學生棒球訓練的異同,「日本強調紮實的基本功,大量跑步、基礎動作的練習,而且大家都練同樣的動作;在台灣則會依守備位置來調整練習項目。」

陳昶亨表示,也許因為民族性, 日本同學在球場上較謹慎、保守,想要有好的表現,卻容易因緊張產生反效果。但他們不放棄的精神,守住每一顆球的機會,全力衝刺,很值得台灣學習。

台日打球的氛圍,也因養成教育而截然不同。「台灣看重比賽的輸贏,為了取勝,球賽中會強制執行教練的戰術。但日本教練在一般的交流賽,會放手讓選手自由發揮,一場賽事靠著團隊的默契完成,隊員也能從比賽中吸取經驗,更能享受球賽的真義。」藍懷謙覺得日本更有可取之處。

請兩人自我分析與同儕間的差異,陳昶亨說:「跟同齡的日本同學相較,我們倆的棒球觀念比日本同學好。在比賽上比較能應變,懂得如何『玩球』,如何搶分。」

經歷了兩地的棒球文化,藍懷謙和陳昶亨更能吸取兩邊優勢,他們除了球隊的訓練,還會自己拍攝練習影片,解析動作,主動進行重量訓練,教練也理解他們的想法,給予尊重。

來日本棒球留學,他們與同儕走出不一樣的人生,已是高三的階段,現階段的兩人思考著如何選擇學校、持續棒球的生涯。請他們想像自己未來的樣子,沒有二話,藍懷謙說:「繼續拚上去,打上職棒。」

台日傳接球

台灣的新竹縣和日本的宮崎縣,也透過投球、揮棒交流兩地的情誼。

今年初,日本宮崎縣都城少年野球團本部長星原透領隊,到台灣新竹進行「新竹縣108年中日少棒國際交流賽」,同年暑假則是由新竹縣中山國小校長郭碧玄帶棒球隊赴日本宮崎交流。這項你來我往的傳統已經第九年了。

喜歡棒球和高爾夫球的宮崎縣議員星原透是台灣新竹與日本宮崎棒球交流的重要推手。走進議員的家中,滿是台灣各界致贈的獎牌、字畫,並獲得外交部頒贈的「外交之友貢獻獎」,足見他與台灣交往之深。

2006年就任宮崎縣議員,星原透即致力台日雙方的交流互動。2011年,他開始帶領日本的棒球團隊到台灣新竹中山國小進行交流,從那時候起,日方每年年初帶隊來訪,新竹中山國小則是隔年利用暑假到日本。

今年暑假的交流,七場比賽台灣五勝兩敗,教練蔡佳偉解釋,日本派出了左投應戰,剛開始球員還不適應,但卻是很難得的應戰經驗。

郭碧玄觀察到台日雙方不同的養成教育,「日本人重視學生態度跟觀念。但台灣比較重在球技的績效和出賽的成績表現,這是我在這一次次台日交流中很大的刺激跟反省。」

其實不只是棒球,星原透語重心長地說:「台日的交流只靠觀光是不夠的,『人的交流』才是重點。」解讀他的話語,的確,是人的交流才有機會營造更深刻的回憶,產生更深入的互動。

一如新竹中山國小球員的分享,小小年紀的他們,對於棒球或許尚停留在輸贏的認知,但孩子說:「日本的球員很團結」,「做操的時候喊聲都很一致。」「他們擺球具都一起動作,沒有人偷懶,擺得很整齊。」這些再簡單不過的事情,卻驗證了「交流」幫助我們看見對方重視的價值,成為自己可再精進的目標。而那一年一起在球場上揮汗的記憶,加深了台灣與宮崎的黏著,在孩子心中留下烙印,是交流最動人之處。

享受一場球賽吧!

場景再轉回球賽進行中的福岡巨蛋。

開球了,空氣中的躁動更升級,才一開場軟銀鷹就敲出一支全壘打,全場鼓動。巨型螢幕上特效晃動的HOME RUN字幕,彷彿搖晃了整個球場。

其實當天是周間的上班日,我們意外有這麼多的觀眾進場觀看比賽,軟銀鷹球隊Inbound推進室的明世熙表示,福岡巨蛋可容納約四萬名觀眾,平日平均可達九成滿席,遇到重要賽事更是一票難求。無怪乎福岡台灣貿易中心特地買下球場廣告時段,推銷台灣精品。

說棒球促進台日人民的感情,一點也不為過。軟銀鷹廣報企劃課的中澤佑輔告訴我們,他喜歡台灣職棒,還曾經親自到桃園的棒球場朝聖。台灣的球迷也會在旅遊福岡的行程中,到巨蛋看一場球賽,為支持的球隊加油。為了服務海外球迷,球團特別在外野側設置了100個海外球迷應援席「Hello Seats」,並貼心地安排中、英、韓語的工作人員,當天就有10位來自台灣的球友,享受與四萬人一起嘶聲吶喊的暢快。

不只是球場上的比拚,看台區的應援團也不遑多讓,太鼓加上管樂,各隊有專屬的應援歌曲,鼓動場內氣氛沸沸揚揚。依照各球隊的慣例,七局上半場結束前,就見全場的球迷鼓著腮幫子吹大黃色的氣球,待七局上半場結束後,黃色氣球飛旋在場中,讓現場氣氛嗨到最高點!遇到主場隊贏球時,換成白色氣球,把贏球的喜悅送上天際。

身在手足舞蹈的人群中,深切地感觸到球粉們義無反顧真心愛著棒球,沒有語言隔閡,沒有地域之分,大家一起成就的棒球盛宴,享受一場球賽,真的,真的,過癮極了。

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EN

Playing Catch Across the Water:

Taiwan and Japan’s Shared Love of Baseball

Cathy Teng /photos courtesy of Chuang Kung-ju /tr. by David Mayer

In 1895, the Japanese introduced the sport of baseball to Taiwan. It caught on spectacularly, and we’ve now been playing it for over a century. It would be no exaggeration to call baseball Taiwan’s national sport. Over the years, it has been a focus of social cohesion.

Baseball is a big thing that Taiwan and Japan share in common. Many young athletes in Taiwan grow up dreaming of one day playing professional baseball in Japan, and many of them pursue that dream by playing high school ball in Japan. This past summer we traveled all around the island of Kyu­shu in southern Japan to learn about the many ways that baseball links Taiwan and Japan together.


One sunny afternoon in Fukuoka, with a baseball game scheduled for six o’clock, excited fans were already thronging the streets around the Fukuoka Dome at three o’clock. It’s a scene that gets repeated every game day.

The Fukuoka Dome, built in 1993, is the home field of the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, a pro team whose chairman just happens to be Sadaharu Oh, who is far better known in Taiwan than anyone else in Japanese baseball. Oh managed the Hawks from 1995 to 2008 before finally leaving the ball diamond behind after 50 years and slipping into a new role as honorary advisor to the club.

On the sunny afternoon in question, the Hawks were pitted against the Rakuten Golden Eagles, a team from Sendai in northern Japan. As both teams warmed up on the diamond before the game, we spotted a player wearing a dark blue jersey with the number 43 on it. The player was a pitcher from Taiwan named Sung Chia-hao.

Taking on a challenge

Sung Chia-hao, who hails from Taitung County, signed on with the Rakuten Golden Eagles in 2016 after graduating from National Taiwan Sport University.

We took advantage of some pre-game downtime to get in a short inter­view with Sung. 183 centi­meters tall and powerfully built, Sung shared what was on his mind as he decided to take up pro ball in Japan: “I had always dreamed of playing in Japan, and then this opportunity came along. I didn’t have much chance at any big success, but I figured I might as well challenge myself and see how far I could get.”

Sung, in effect, laid down a gauntlet to himself. He became his own competitor. Now in his fourth year in Japan, Sung started out playing with the Rakuten Golden Eagles minor league team, but within less than two years he was called up to the majors, and in 2019 has set a personal high for number of appearances in Japan. He made 48 appearances during the regular season, notching up 24 holds and compiling an earned run average of 2.18. During the latter half of the season, in fact, he went 19 straight games without surrendering a single run.

Although he hasn’t played pro ball in Taiwan, Sung feels there is no big difference in player development between Taiwan and Japan. “But there are a couple of differences,” he says. “First, the competition in Japan is much more intense. And second, the players in Japan take a much more active role in their own development.” “At the pro level, everyone is in competition with every­one else, so you’ve got to identify your weaknesses and make improvements.”

Sung confides that it was the sound of cheering crowds that first got him hooked on baseball: “When you make a good play on the field, the cheering really fills you with self-confidence. It really motivates you.” Sung feels quite proud of his performance over the past four years, because he has worked steadily and made progress each year. Each game is an unforgettable memory, and proof of the unstinting effort he has put in.

In the footsteps of a hero

Sung’s success has inspired others to pursue baseball dreams of their own. Indeed, lots of Taiwanese students have decided to get an early start by enrolling in high school in Japan. Wu Nien-ting, who currently plays pro ball for the Saitama Seibu Lions, graduated from Kyou­sei High School in Japan’s Okayama Prefecture. And Fuku­oka Daiichi High School, which we visited on our travels through Kyushu, is the alma mater of Yang Dai-kang, who immediately upon graduating from high school joined the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters and is now playing for the Yomiuri Giants of Japan’s Central League. Chang Yi, who performed so well in the 2019 WBSC ­Premier12 competition, is also a Fukuoka Daiichi alumnus.

Lan Huaiqian and Chen Changheng both played junior-­high baseball in Taoyuan County before enrolling in Fukuoka Daiichi High School.

Traveling off to Japan to play high-school baseball is by no means the path of least resistance. On school days, after getting out of class at 3:30 p.m. the athletes train with barely a break straight through till eight or nine o’clock. Then on the weekends they play against other schools to familiarize themselves with many different kinds of competitors. Over three years of high school in Japan, the athletes don’t get a single day off, but they don’t complain a bit, because they’re on a mission to play pro ball in Japan.

Having played baseball virtually their whole lives, Lan and Chen have observed certain differences in the way student athletes train in Taiwan and Japan: “In Japan, they emphasize the fundamentals. They do a lot of running and practicing of basic skills, and everyone practices the same skills. But in Taiwan, different people have different training routines depending on what posi­tion they play.”

Chen Changheng says that, perhaps due to national character, their Japanese teammates play more cautiously and conservatively, but he feels their never-say-die atti­tude and their willingness to give 100% are traits that Taiwan would do well to emulate.

And Lan Huaiqian has noticed a big difference in the way Taiwanese and Japanese people approach the game: “In Taiwan we put a lot of emphasis on winning, and in order to win we are expected to execute whatever tactics the coach calls for. But a Japanese coach, in an ordinary game with another school, will generally take a more hands-off approach and let the players decide among themselves what they want to do. Players have a chance to build up experience that way.” Lan feels this is another area where Taiwan might learn from Japan.

The decision to play high-school ball in Japan has put their lives on a very different track from those of their old classmates. Now, Lan and Chen are thinking about where to continue their studies after high school so they can continue pursuing their baseball careers. When asked about his plans for the future, Lan answers without hesitation: “I’m going to keep at it, until I get into the pros.”

Friendly rivalry

Early this year Toru Ho­shi­hara, the president of Mi­ya­ko­nojo Junior Baseball Association, led some teams from Japan’s Miyazaki Prefecture to take part in the Hsin­chu County Taiwan‡Japan International Junior Baseball Friendly Tournament. Then in the summer Guo Bixuan, the principal of Chung Shan Elementary School in Hsinchu County, led several teams to play in a tournament in Miyazaki. This back-and-forth has been going on now for the last nine years.

Hoshihara, a member of the Miyazaki Prefectural Assembly and an avid fan of both baseball and golf, has been a major supporter of the junior baseball tournaments between Hsinchu and Miyazaki. When we interviewed him, we saw that his home was full of plaques and calligraphic works from all sorts of people in Taiwan, and he had received a Friend of Foreign Service Medal from Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Quite clearly, he has deep ties to Taiwan.

After his election to the Miyazaki Prefectural Assembly in 2006, Hoshihara began working hard to promote ties with Taiwan. The first time he led a group of Japan­ese baseball teams to Taiwan to play in a tournament was in 2011.

The Taiwanese teams compiled a win‡loss record of 5‡2 this summer in Miyazaki. Coach Cai Jiawei said his hitters at first had a tough time getting used to the opponents’ left-handed pitchers. Nevertheless, he said, it was a valuable learning opportunity.

Guo Bixuan observed differences in the Taiwanese and Japanese approaches to formative education: “The Japanese emphasize the importance of students’ attitudes and concepts. But in Taiwan we are more concerned about developing skills and winning games. In the course of our interactions with Japan, this observation has been a big eye-opener for me.”

And there’s more than just baseball involved. Hoshihara stated: “Exchange between Taiwan and Japan has to be about more than just tourism. Interactions on a personal level are the most important thing.”

And indeed, his point was borne out in our interviews with the young players from Chung Shan Elementary. To be sure, their thoughts on baseball remain focused at this point on winning and losing, but they still made some interesting observations about their Japanese counterparts: “When they did calisthenics, they all shouted in unison, and they didn’t trail off one tiny bit.” “They laid out their equipment all nice and neat.” In little details like these, we see each other’s values.

Have fun at the game!

Let’s get back to the Fukuoka Dome, where the game is now in progress.

Once the game gets underway, the air of excitement in the stands ratchets up a few notches. Before long, a batter for the Softbank Hawks blasts a home run, and the fans go wild.

Sehee Myoung, an executive in the Softbank Hawks Inbound Promotion Department, explains that the Fukuoka Dome can seat about 40,000 fans, and the weekday attendance rate can reach 90%. When an important game comes up, it’s practically impossible to get a ticket. Small ­wonder, then, that the Taiwan Trade Center in Fukuoka has bought advertising space at the stadium to market high-end goods from Taiwan.

The SoftBank Hawks organization has designated a section of 100 “Hello Seats” in the center field stands, and reserves them for fans from overseas. Better yet, the club staffs this section with people who can speak Chinese, English, and Korean. At the game we attended, over ten fans from Taiwan were there cheering along with the other 40,000 fans.

So it isn’t just the players on the field who are going at it with all their might; in the stands, too, the cheerleaders go nuts with enthusiasm as they beat on taiko drums and blow on horns. Each team’s cheering section has its own musical numbers, and they get the crowds revved up. At any pro baseball game in Japan, fans throughout the stadium start blowing up big yellow balloons during the top of the seventh inning, and when the top of the seventh comes to an end they release the balloons, which swirl around the ball diamond and get everyone really excited. As we watch amidst the crowds of twirling, jumping fans, we get a strong feel for everyone’s utterly unrestrained passion for the game. There is no language barrier, or any feeling of being an outsider. Sharing a “baseball feast” right alongside all the others really is fun!

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