The Slow (Internet) Boat to China

This was the first home opener I've missed in 30 years.

I'm way too baseball crazy. My wife loves to travel to exotic places so when she came up with plans for a trip to China for 3 weeks the only question was when. It was either September/October or April. There went my opening day streak. Opening day is for me a religious holiday. You know, opening day is guaranteed to freeze your butt off but it's the annual reintroduction to Wrigley Field. Brown vines withstanding, the scoreboard is such a beautiful sight after a long off-season. So when I decided to sacrifice the beginning of the 2009 season (at the expense of not sacrificing the end of the season) I knew I'd be able to follow the Cubs via all the mlb and internet technology options out there. 

Not so fast, grasshopper.

First, I'm told that there is a luggage weight restriction we'd have to deal with in several of the intra-China flights so I shouldn't bring my laptop. OK, I'll bring my iPhone. Then I realize Apple is still working on a deal with China Telecom, so the phone won't get me on the net except thru wi-fi. Plan B. I get a new iPod touch which also gets e-mail and wifi internet plus much more storage for video. I added Ken Burns Baseball (innings 1 and 2), When it was a Game and a few movies ie. Alibi Ike, Kill the Umpire and it Happens Every Spring to prevent baseball withdrawl. Not everything was baseball (Shawshank Redemption) but there was ample material for some long flights and tour bus rides.

April 2nd and 3rd (14 hour flight but with time change Thursday became Friday). Direct flight from O'Hare to Shanghai. I'd strongly recommend seeing the Ken Burns series. It's being replayed from time to time on the mlb network. The route taken was also worth mentioning. Flew straight north over Wisconsin and central Canada, north of Alaska (almost to the North Pole) then down over Siberia. I'm still trying to remind myself to look at a globe to sort that route out. 

Fancy hotel in Shanghai with great wi-fi in the room. Perfect. My e-mail box is still under control and I'm reading TCR including comments.  Plenty of Arizona Phil, awesome. First glitch. I tried to enter the TCR Annual 10 queston contest but for some reason I couldn't get the choices to work because the browser kept adding boxes of Mandarin script. I knew studying German in highschool was a mistake.

Shanghai is incredible. Supposedly 20 million people. Huge Skyscrapers. We had an extra day in the city to explore before the tour began, so we took the subway to a Buddist Temple and then walked our way back. Walked thru some streets full of vendors selling antique memoribilia (need a Chairman Mao statue?), Eventually found a teahouse for lunch. Oolong tea for me, Jasmine for my mate Renee.

Tour starts on Sunday. Very ambitious schedule including Shanghai Museum, Yu Gardens, the Bund (Chinese version of Michigan Avenue) and a dinner show with Chinese acrobats. Next day is a travel day with stops at a silk factory in Suzhou (I bought a shirt, Happy Buddah size) before getting to Nanking and the Yangtze River for the 10 day cruise part of the trip.

The brochure promised internet on the cruise. Internet-hell is what they need to call it. 4 computers with no wi-fi (nixing my iPod). It took about 20 minutes to download most web pages so only the most patient could access e-mail. The only browser was internet explorer (have I mentioned I hate IE? I it would have taken 24 hours to download Firefox.), so I couldn't access my .mac mail account, but it's a moot point because AOL, g-mail and hotmail users had long waits to get the page to mostly they played freecell and chatted with the passerbys who asked if the internet was faster today as they'd politely smile at the goofballs trying their skill on these hapless computers.

But I'm more saavy than that. From my first cellphone days with "baby" internet, I knew the epsn mobile app site address and hooray, I was saved. Of course there was minimal graphics but it did give me pitch by pitch info.

Opening day: Houston

A Soriano homered to left center. >CHC 1 HOU 0

...and the good Zambrano showed up.

I can live with this. Of course, there was a 13 hour time difference so I had to get up at 2 AM to watch any of the "day games" and night games, well about 6 AM.

K Hill homered to left center, R Theriot scored. >CHC 3 MIL 2

Fuckin' A. But Kerry Wood will be missed if Kevin Gregg pitches like time all season:

R Weeks doubled to deep left, C Duffy scored. >CHC 3 MIL 3

...I do remember KW not starting so well against the Brewers last year, with a 3 run HR by Fukudome being the equivalent of Koyie's heroics in that game.

April 11th, Saturday:

A Ramirez homered to catcher. >CHC 4 MIL 5

A Soriano homered to left, J Gathright scored. >CHC 6 MIL 5

Woo. Soriano hotter than a pistol.  People on the other computers think I'm nuts. I guess I am.

Wuhan, China to Chicago, April 13th. Get up at 2:20 am for the official opening day. Game hasn't started. Gotta find out if it's going to be cancelled. Fortunately after 15 minutes the TCR site loads, 15 more minutes to get the comments.

thanks Jace (TCR readers come thru!):

Radar looks like things should be clearing up in 30 minutes or so... It'll be a cold, wet one, but it looks like it might be playable...

So I sit and wait for 112 minutes for my baseball opening day fix.

Well worth it. Lillyhammer, we loves you. No-no into the 7th and even the bullpen didn't suck.

After 10 days on the Yangtze River including the beautiful Three Gorges, we end the river part of the tour in Chongquing (formerly known as Chung-King until the frozen food company was getting too much notoriety). Highlighted by a stop at their zoo to see the Pandas, it's a city supposedly over 6 million but 30 million for the whole municipality. That's alot of people and the city was very busy with monorails, taxi's but not bicycles as it's built on somewhat mountainous terrain.

Same day, we fly to Xian, population 7 million. Home of the terra cota warriors.  These are some 8,000 statues lined up in military columns (rediscovered by farmers drilling for water in 1974) it was representative of the Emporer Qin Shi Huang's army from around 200 B.C. One has to see them in person to appreciate how spectacular this archeological wonder is.

Xian was the return to luxury hotel-land. Wi-fi in the lobby (but not in the room). So I'm back in business. I downloaded the mlb app which became available just before I left home. Awesome. This year they've added radio broadcasts of both teams. Live updates too with all the usual frills like boxscores and video hightlights. I'm in the lobby of the hotel at 4:30 am with headphones listening to Pat and Ron. I pick up the game about the 6th inning as the Cardinals tied it up at 4-4. We're in for a long season if our bullpen repeats this effort Heilman/Patton/Cotts/Guzman...yeech. Sad final, 7-4 and I'm off to the land of ancient artifacts.

Finally we fly to Beijing and a luxurious Shangri-La  hotel. Internet in the room but no wi-fi. I was duped cause they never weighed our luggage for the flight so I could have bought the laptop. I go down to the lobby for wi-fi and find the signal is sort of weak. So I get Pat and Ron but they keep cutting out. Back to espn but I keep hoping to hear Ron whooping it up. Missed it by that much so it's me that's whooping at Saturday, 5 am in the lobby.

A Soriano homered to left center, A Miles scored. >STL 7 CHC 8

Finally got the mlb app to work and watched the vido of the Soriano HR. Woo. I'm off to tour the Great China Wall...

...until Sunday 5 am:

Bot 11th - CHC

A Ramirez homered to center, K Fukudome scored. >STL 5 CHC 7

Concierge thinks I'm a traveling lunatic especially on the second morning of this. 

After the final game in the Cardinal series gets rained out I relax my baseball-jones and I'm off for the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square  wrapping up the tour with a Chinese Opera performance. The last morning of the trip had a few more hours to see Beijing and visit a fantastic park called Temple of Heaven with people doing Tai-chi, ribbon dancing and other popular Chinese forms of exercise. The Emperor, circa 1500, would visit the Temples on site after a 3 day fast to pray for a good harvest.  Finally, the 13 hour flight home and major jet lag (which I'm still suffering from nearly a week later). With a day off monday (travel day) and a Cincy series that I had tickets for...I survived my April baseball challenge.

Remember if all else fails,



that was fun...enjoyed the piece.

"Remember if all else fails,"

Thanks :)

enjoy china...say hello to all our US money while you're there.

Good read. Makes me wonder if I'm quite the baseball fanatic you are. I might be, but I've never had to get up at 2:00 to follow a game on the internet.

Good read. Thanks for sharing. I studied abroad in China from June-Sept of '06 and I remember how hard it was for me to follow the Cubs for that time; I feel for you.

Recent comments

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  • there's nothing like crapping out of the playoffs with a strong/young cheap team after pinching pennies for years then having theo talk about having to be creative with money to make things work for 2016...but hey, baseball isn't baseball without a farmer's market and beer garden plaza with ice rinks.

    they can do both...then again, if you want to look at it from a business point of view, they don't have to do both because the team is expected to be competitive and the merch+tickets+eyes-on-team are going to be at a peak unless they fail badly.

  • Really ?

    They are trying to bring the facility to the 20th century.
    I think they know what they are doing.

  • With the Cubs adding Pierce Johnson to their roster and not exposing/losing him to the Rule 5 Draft keeps the trade ancestry tree alive that started in 1999 with Tom Gordon and undrafted Adam Morrissey and includes 17 players, the trade tree progressed to involve the Hee Sop Choi for Derrek Lee deal and the famous Aramis Ramirez/Kenny Lofton deal..Pierce Johnson is the compensation pick for Aramis Ramirez in 2012

  • Well played.

  • Yeah, the Rex brothers, Tyrannosaurus and Oedipus

  • When I first saw the Tweet, I thought there were two guys. Happy Thanksgiving gang! And TheoJed!

  • They can use another Brother

  • Cubs acquired Rex Brothers. Awesome fit for this team. Wander Cabrera going to COL.

  • "MLB announces #Cubs Minor League RHP Tanner Griggs receives 50-game suspension without pay after testing positive for amphetamine"

    2014 12th rounder...

    it's hard to know who to blame...on one hand he's a baseball player, on the other he sells cars in the offseason...either job leads to amphetamine abuse. =p

  • Thanks PHIL! I thought only the Cubs had control until the last day of the MLB 2015 Season.

  • that's awesome...makes me look forward to hearing theo talk some more about how the team needs to be creative with finances because money is tight.


  • See What The Cubs Are Building This Off-Season For Wrigley Plaza, Clubhouse

  • CUBBIES-4-EVER: It's not unusual for a PTBNL to be chosen after the Rule 5 Draft from the list of Rule 5 eligible players who were not selected. That way, a club gets a player they like (perhaps somebody like OF Jeffrey Baez) without the cumbersome Rule 5 roster restrictions that go with a Rule 5 Draft pick.

  • Clayton Richard is absolutely, positively NOT a free-agent. He is under club control through the 2016 season. 

  • Haren was 4-2 with a 4.01 ERA with the Cubs. Seems like he worked out just as expected.