The art of being a Chinese Taipei cheerleader

March 12th, 2023

TAICHUNG, Taiwan -- If you’ve been watching any of the Chinese Taipei games in Pool A of the World Baseball Classic, you’ve likely noticed the loud, relentless crowds. There’s nothing like it in the world. Down 10 runs, up 10 runs, first inning, last inning – the loyal Taiwanese fans never, ever stop at Intercontinental Stadium.

So, what keeps them going?

Loving their team and players, sure. But there’s also a squad – a cheer squad – of 12-14 people that leads the crowd, constantly conducting the throngs of fans, to keep them going. They sing songs, they stomp on the dugout, they are the source of all the energy in the ballpark for sometimes four hours at a time.

“When we’re down 10 runs, I know we’re down, but I’m not a fan anymore,” cheer captain Travis told me through an interpreter. “I’m down inside, but as a vice captain, I have to put a smile on my face and say, ‘My job is to cheer the fans up.’”

“When we’re down, I know that the game is still going on and we have to still support the team,” cheerleader Seulgi said with a smile. “I know we have to go even harder.”

Travis, 30, and Seulgi, 24, were chosen as part of an All-Star team to represent Chinese Taipei in the Classic. Normally, they do their cheering for local pro baseball and basketball teams during the regular season. Seulgi’s been doing it for five years, while Travis has been doing it for six.

“I started off as a baseball and basketball fan,” Travis said. “I saw there was an opening for one of the local basketball teams, Fubon Braves Bank, for vice-cheerleader captain. I went for that and got hired. I transferred from the stands to the field.”

For Seulgi, it’s been a lifelong passion that she can now turn into a full-time job.

“I’ve always been a baseball fan and always liked performing and dancing,” she said. “My friends told me there was an opportunity to be a baseball cheerleader. I tried out and got the part.”

Seulgi also cheers for the Hsinchu Lioneers -- a local pro basketball team.

But no matter how much they might love what they do, it’s a lot of work to stand and yell and jump around for an entire baseball game. It can take its toll physically. How do they stay in such great shape?

“Weight training and yoga,” Seulgi said.

They’re not lifting giant Arnold Schwarzenegger-level weights, it’s more for stamina. They also do cardio and practice often during the week. Between both sports and some behind-the-scenes planning, it’s a busy job for both of them. Seulgi also takes classes for appearance and etiquette.

Chinese Taipei lost its first game in Pool A to Panama, but bounced back for a thrilling 11-7 victory over Italy on Friday. The team seems to thrive off the cheer squad and the boisterous crowd, and opposing teams seem to have trouble blocking it out.

"The environment, I was very surprised with, with the cheerleaders and the noise throughout their offensive at-bats," manager Mike Piazza said after Italy’s loss. "... When you're in the stadium, it's a whole different experience."

Win or lose, cheer their hearts out, because it’s their job, but also because they know they can help foster an intense, almost indescribable home-field advantage.

“We can add a little bit of influence to the game,” Travis said. “We chant for a certain player to hit a home run and then he hits one out of the park. It’s like, ‘Wow, it’s the law of attraction or gravity or something in the universe.’ Calling on the universe to make something happen.”