Food part of Padres' adventure
Players eagerly take in Beijing's culinary, cultural experience
BEIJING -- On only one occasion this week did Padres pitcher Heath Bell succumb to the familiarity of American food, and that was when Dominos pizza arrived in the clubhouse after Saturday's game at Wukesong Stadium.
"And even that wasn't very good," Bell said.
It simply wasn't enough for Bell to come to Beijing this week with his teammates, climb the Great Wall, do a few other assorted tourist things and pack his things for Peoria for a Sunday evening flight back to Arizona.
Bell immersed himself in, well, all things Chinese during the team's five-day visit for the first Major League games to be played in China, using his stomach as his de facto tourist guide.
"I ate silk worm, I ate snake, I had a 1,000 year-old egg, sea urchin and scorpion. I tried everything," Bell said proudly. "Everyone is asking me how my stomach is and if I am still alive. Well, I'm still here."
Bell's experience, although a bit extreme, wasn't unlike those of his Padres teammates who didn't resign themselves to the comfy digs of the Grand Hyatt, order room service and venture out only when told to.
Like Bell, the Padres embraced their visit to Beijing, which included much more than baseball. There was a visit to the Great Wall, two clinics with youth players and a dizzying visit to a shopping mall to sign autographs.
Players ventured out on their own when there was any snippet of free time. They visited the silk market, strolled by Tiananmen Square and snapped as many pictures of the mural of Mao as they could at the Forbidden City.
"It was such a good experience to get to come here," Padres pitcher Jared Wells said. "I got to see a different culture, something I've never seen before and likely will never see again. I was expecting to see something totally different."
What about all those Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants, a fixture seemingly planted on every corner?
"If you take away the Chinese writing and it's like you're in an American city or about anywhere else," Wells said. "It's more modernized American that I thought it would be."
Catcher Nick Hundley ventured into the Beijing subway on Saturday to get to the silk market. He quickly found out that was a bad idea, as a swarm of Chinese nearly rolled over him and his teammates getting on and off the subway.
"It was like a wave of people, we were body to body, nose to nose," Hundley said. "It was packed. It's amazing how many people were on that."
Bell was on that particular subway trip, along with his wife Nicole, who is of Chinese descent. He sampled the various, uh, local dishes but Nicole refrained. "She couldn't believe it," Bell said.
And what did Bell think of what he was eating?
"The silk worm was disgusting, the egg was very salty, the snake wine I had tasted like bad tequila," he said. "The sea urchin was not that bad, the shell was kind of rough. The scorpion was disgusting and the snake was like literally chewing on a rubber band.
"But the duck was delicious."
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.