Staying true to the saying “When in Rome, do as the Romans do,” a group of MLB heavy hitters captured the international media spotlight by throwing back a few shots…of warm, fresh snake blood, that is.
The night before their first game on the island, the all-star team boarded the bus for Taipei’s infamous Huaxi Street night market, which is known better by the name “Snake Alley.”
A small but significant tourist trap for foreign visitors to the island’s capital, Snake Alley has made more than a name for itself (pun intended) by offering up a variety of traditional snake “goodies.” The main attraction? Snakes, of course. So what’s the big deal? There are a lot of them, they kill them in front of you, and the blood is drained into shot glasses for those brave enough to try it.
Local folk tradition claims the blood is supposed to imbue the drinker with increased stamina and better skin. Most important, so goes the legend, is that the blood is consumed while still warm from the kill.
While Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano declined to taste the main attraction the first time it was offered to him, his teammates on the tour were more than willing, even enthusiastic, to drop shots of snake blood down the ol’ hatch.
Moments before the shop proprietor made the reptilian sacrifice for the dozen or so players, Milwaukee Brewers relief pitcher Troy Hawkins set the tone for the group that evening: “I didn’t travel halfway around the world to not do what the natives do, so I’m going to try it.”
Hawkins, known for being adventurous, and the most among the bunch interested in trying popular, even at times infamous, local delicacies, persuaded his buddies to follow his lead with a pitch about the concoction’s highly touted powers.
San Francisco Giants outfielder Andres Torres liked it enough to do at least three shots.
“I just want to try different things,” Torres said. “I think it’s pretty cool. It’s a different culture, so you embrace it. Why not? Plus, it’s supposed to give you energy, and we’re playing tomorrow, so we’ll be ready.”
Fellow outfielder Logan Morrison (Florida Marlins) thought it tasted like wine.
“I’m definitely going to hit home runs on this trip now,” he said. “I’m going to have powers like Spider-Man, but more snake-like powers.”
Colorado Rockies infielder Ty Wigginton took the plunge, too, claiming to be a little nervous.
“I figured it’s once in a lifetime,” Wigginton said. “You might as well give it a shot. Hopefully it does bring me some powers. That would be cool. I can always use a little help.”
On the second round, Robinson Cano relented, even talking his father, Jose Cano, into taking one for the team. Neither thought it was a big deal.
The older Cano, who was a pitcher in Taiwan in the 1990s, confessed, “I never drank it before in my years playing in Taiwan because nobody would drink it with me,” Jose said. “But I finally tried it.”
When asked to comment on the adventure, the team’s tour manager, Bruce Bochy (Milwaukee Giants, manager), praised the guys for their courage.
“I think it’s great,” Bochy said. “You get pumped up for the game, and they’re looking for blood here. There are some warriors on this club to be trying this stuff. It’s good to see.”
After the excursion, some of the players were caught raving about the exotic experience.
Hawkins posted a message to his followers on Twitter that reads as follows: “Tweeps drank the snake blood! Didn’t taste bad, waterd dwn with Rice Liquor ,a lot of fun. Gm time tomorrow sight seeing is OVER!!”
Morrison called the night the coolest part of the trip so far. “I drank snake blood RT @jdidiana@LoMoMarlins Yum. What’s the coolest thing you’ve seen/done so far?”
In the end, it must have worked. The American team cleaned house.
For the foreseeable future, snake blood shots will more than likely become a tradition for visiting athletes to the island.