ST. PETERSBURG — Rays hitting coach Derek Shelton thoroughly enjoyed soaking in the Taiwanese culture this month during the 2011 Taiwan All-Star Series, when he joined a group of major-league stars for a five-game swing.
Shelton took a tour to a few memorials, watched the changing of the guards and was surprised by all the chanting/drumming by fans during at-bats. But Shelton did not experience with the players one authentic local tradition.
"I did not drink the snake blood," he said.
While some players, including reliever LaTroy Hawkins, sampled the shots (which are believed by some to have special healing powers), Shelton passed. But he had a blast, saying his favorite part was getting to spend the entire trip with his dad, Ron.
"We were able to do all the culture stuff together and hang out together," Shelton said.
Shelton was invited to join a coaching staff that included Giants manager Bruce Bochy, though he acknowledged there wasn't a lot of instruction going on, just getting hitters such as Yankees stars Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson ready for the exhibitions. (The MLB team won all five games against the Chinese Taipei national team.)
Shelton said the fans, who were knowledgeable and respectful, greeted them at a lot of their stops in and around the cities. "They definitely embraced major-league baseball," he said.
In his down time, Shelton was amazed to watch the changing of the guards at one of the temples. "One soldier had sweat dripping off his nose and didn't blink — his concentration was unbelievable," Shelton said.
The atmosphere at the games was also unique, with a PA announcer leading fans in chants (in Mandarin, of course). Fans also banged on drums and used thundersticks. During MLB games, when hitters are hitting, "there's no noise," Shelton said. "It was more similar to an NBA game where it was constant action."
As with the snake blood, Shelton didn't go too far out of his comfort zone when it came to cuisine, saying there were a lot of McDonald's, along with American fare in the clubhouse.
"I'm not an adventurous food eater — I don't eat any seafood to begin with," Shelton said. "But the food was definitely an interesting option for those guys that did try it."
RAYS RUMBLINGS: Rays free agent 1B Casey Kotchman, INF Sean Rodriguez and OF Matt Joyce will join Don Zimmer, Tom Foley, Jim Hickey, Shelton, Dave Martinez and Rays TV broadcaster DeWayne Staats on Monday night for a fundraiser to benefit Clearwater for Youth at the Island Way Grill. The event is sold out. … The Rays' signing of free agent C Jose Molina is expected to be officially announced this week, and he won't have to go far, considering he has a North Tampa home. … RHP Alex Cobb, for one, is in favor of the HGH testing implemented in the new collective bargaining agreement. "I think it's worth it. Why not? Make sure everybody has the equal playing field so to speak, and just knock out all the questions."
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