Inspired by the movie Go Grand-riders (不老騎士), a group of senior citizens and retirees in Greater Tainan have been gathering each weekend with bats and gloves to pursue their love of baseball.
The heart of this group is 75-year-old Chen Teh-ming (陳德銘), who in his youth was a pitcher for the Taiwanese air force team and is also a member of the semi-professional Taiwan Land Bank team.
“I got the idea when I saw Go Grandriders, a film about a group of senior motorcyclists who defied age and illness to chase their dream of touring around the nation,” Chen said. “That got me thinking about my own baseball dream. Even though I cannot hit the ball very far now and my legs cannot run as fast, my passion for the game is still strong. So, I began organizing games for elders in Greater Tainan.”
Chen has recrutied more than 30 “grandfather”-class players for his senior-citizens team, including 81-year-old former licensed umpire Wang Hsiao-lieh (王孝烈) and several former semi-pro players.
“We are the baseball version of the ‘Grandriders.’ Many of us are returning to the game after more than 30 to 40 years of absence. It is wonderful to feel rejuvenated on a baseball diamond. When playing, running on the red dirt or grassy field, it is like turning the clock back to when we were young,” Chen said.
The group has formed the Greater Tainan Evergreen Baseball Promotion Association, with Lan Yi-tun (藍義敦) as secretary-general.
“Many of our members come from Nanying (南英), Tainan’s No. 1 baseball school, but we welcome anyone who loves baseball — men over 50 and women over 40 — to join us,” Lan said.
Lan and Chen are leading the Greater Tainan contingent to participate in the Asia Baseball Evergreen Cup tournament to be held in Chiayi City in November.
“The senior baseball movement is very strong in Japan. They have a long tradition, with many active teams in cities and local communities. Because Japan and South Korea are sending teams to the tournament in Chiayi, we need more good players so we can compete in the event,” Lan said.
The Greater Tainan seniors squad also includes Yeh Kuo-hui (葉國輝) and Lin Ming-kui (林明貴), the renowned former pitcher-catcher battery of the Co-operative Bank Team, Wang Ching-yuan (王慶元), former pitcher for the 1972 Tainan City Giants team (Little League level), former Taiwan Power catcher Hsu Jung-chung (許榮忠), and Wu Cheng-hsien (吳政憲), who played in Taiwan’s adult league “Coconuts” team in the 1970s.