Back to the home base
By Helen Ku, The China Post
August 31, 2012, 5:03 pm TWN
For most professional baseball players around the world, all it takes to hit each ball is a strong will to win the game. But for Taiwanese players, things are often much more complicated.
Playing out as a drama, “Viva Baseball” (球來就打) vividly recounts the ups and downs of Taiwanese baseball player Umi (Eric Huang, 黃少祺), as well as the controversies that have surrounded the sport in Taiwan over the past 20 years.
Back in 1992, as cheers for Taiwan's national baseball team are shouted in front of every television in the country, Umi stands firm on home base, observes the pitcher's eyes, estimates the possible route of the incoming pitch and decisively ends the Barcelona Olympics baseball game with a legendary home run. Despite his efforts, gold slips from Taiwan's hands, but they clinch their first-ever silver medal.
Though physically living in a world full of acclamations, Umi's soul is still lingering in Barcelona. Back in his hometown, during a series of probes into match-fixing, Umi is accused of intentionally throwing games to allow players, including himself, to gain from sports gambling.
In the end, Umi is kicked out of the local baseball league, and his broken promises to fans shut down every chance for him to keep playing in the league. Afterward, Umi becomes a food vendor who can barely earn a living.
However, a real warrior never surrenders to his enemies.
Persuaded by his old friend Po Tsai (Hong Sheng-de, a.k.a. Honduras), Umi accepts an invitation from Principal Chao (Teng An-ning, 鄧安寧) of Ching-tun High School (青屯高中) to coach the school baseball team. However, up until the arrival of a government official named Nancy (Tracy Chou, 周采詩), no one can foresee that Chao's real motivation for organizing the baseball team is to defraud a government funding program handling cross-strait baseball player exchanges. Things get even more intriguing when Nancy's fake identity and purpose in interrupting the baseball team's training sessions are brought into question by the revelation that she is a huge fan of Umi.
Nancy's passion finally wins Umi's heart and helps him regain confidence in baseball. Umi grows determined that he can not let gangster boss Bada (Yang Lieh, 楊烈) continue to manipulate Taiwan's baseball games. For the sake of Nancy and the future of the sport, Umi must take the plunge.
So do the school baseball team's ardent soldiers.
Bringing to life renowned baseball player Chen Chin-feng's (陳金鋒) famous saying, “How to play baseball? Just hit every pitch,” “Viva Baseball” aims to deliver a story of how Taiwan's national pastime has been distorted by despicable back-stage puppet masters.
Recognized with the Best Screenplay Award (優良劇本獎) by the former Government Information Office (新聞局), “Viva Baseball” fearlessly challenges the dark forces behind Taiwan baseball and also captures scenes of grassroots culture, such as making illegal deals in KTVs and drinking together after ball games.
Overall, “Viva Baseball” successfully brings to life true stories of Taiwan's baseball scene for the audience, and also clearly illustrates the usually invisible hardships local players face in their careers.
“If there is one more chance for me to play baseball, I'll show you who has Taiwan's strongest Kada (shoulder)!” — Umi
'Viva baseball' (球來就打) ► Directed by Yin Chi / With Eric Huang, Tracy Chou and Honduras / Drama / 2012 / Taiwan / 135 min. / Mandarin with English subtitles / Now Showing / ★★★☆☆