Back then, when the former Houston Astros right-hander pitched for the Uni-President Lions (1992-94) and the Wei Chuan Dragons (1998-99), there weren't even clubhouses at Xinzhuang Stadium in New Taipei City. Showers? Nope. Just show up at the game in your uniform and clean off all that dirt and sweat back at your house afterwards. Back then, the field was artificial turf. Now it's grass.
"Here, in the first inning, they'd bunt, and if a guy made an error in the first inning, they'd take him out," Jose said. "I come back 12 years later and it's a lot better."
Indeed, especially because his son, Yankees All-Star second baseman Robinson Cano, is one of the star attractions of the Major League Baseball All-Star team that is here to take on the Chinese Taipei national team in a five-game tour that begins in Xinzhuang on Tuesday.
The first game of the series, played at XinZhuang Stadium in New Taipei City, will air on MLB Network on Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET. Games 2 and 3, played at Intercontinental Stadium in Taichung, will air on Thursday and Friday at 9 p.m. ET; and Games 4 and 5, played at Chengcing Lake Stadium in Kaohsiung, will air at 5 p.m. ET on Saturday and at 9 p.m. ET on Sunday.
On Monday, the MLB players were the toast of Taipei as they took infield practice and batting practice in front of a large and loud crowd.
After the workout, Jose and Robinson did an encore performance of the 2011 State Farm Home Run Derby during All-Star Game festivities in Phoenix, where Jose pitched and Robinson slugged his way to a memorable family victory.
The idea was for Jose to throw 15 batting-practice pitches to Robinson and for money to be donated to Taiwan charities for each home run Robinson hit. The field cleared out, the P.A. announcer fired up the fans by saying, "Let's go Cano!" and Jose went to work.
After a slow start, Robinson belted four out of the park, including one majestic shot high over the 400-foot marker in center field. Robinson served as ambassador and de facto traveling host to the engaged onlookers, taking a microphone and opening his comments with a hearty "Ni hao," which is Mandarin for hello.
"I've been really impressed by the fans here," said Cano, whose option for 2012 was just picked up by the Yankees. "I'd like to come back here more often. I was a baseball fan growing up, I used to hear about baseball all the time from my dad, and he was here.
"I didn't get a chance to see him here then, but we're here now."
Taiwan couldn't be happier about it.
While Jose was getting himself reacquainted with some old pals from his Taiwan playing days, his son was bonding with his new MLB teammates -- players he has only seen from the other side of the dugout since he made his big league debut with the Yankees in 2005.
In fact, while Robinson was struggling with the windy conditions at the beginning of his Home Run Derby performance, Erick Aybar of the Angels, Pablo Sandoval of the Giants and Emilio Bonifacio of the Marlins entered the field, video cameras in hand to savor the moment.
They saw Robinson hit a low line drive and popup onto the shallow outfield grass, but Bonifacio screamed, "Let's go now!" and Robinson heard him, smiled and promised him he would. That's when he got hot.
The fans in Taiwan weren't the only ones admiring the Cano connection, though. Robinson's Yankees teammate, center fielder Curtis Granderson, also is in the Taiwan contingent and said he was envious of what the Canos are doing right now.
"That's neat," Granderson said. "You see relationships between fathers and sons when they get a chance to play together or play at the same institution, and here's one of them. I would have loved to have gotten an opportunity to play with my dad at some point in time, but our paths just never crossed.
"And not only do [Robinson and Jose] have the chance to be out here together, but his dad definitely can play. His dad's throwing batting practice, and that just makes it that much cooler."
Robinson said his father has been instrumental in making sure the Taiwan experience is a good one. The father is planning on taking the son to some of his favorite restaurants and old haunts, and Robinson said he appreciates all of it.
"I wanted to come here and see how it is," Robinson said. "It's great to have him show me around."
2011 MLB All-Stars in Taiwan
Balester, Collin (WAS)
Bell, Trevor (LAA)
Bray, Bill (CIN)
Coke, Phil (DET)
Detwiler, Ross (WAS)
Gee, Dillon (NYM)
Guthrie, Jeremy (BAL)
Hawkins, LaTroy (MIL)
Melancon, Mark (HOU)
Paulino, Felipe (KC)
Ramirez, Ramon (SF)
Thompson, Rich (LAA)
Veras, Jose (PIT)
Butera, Drew (MIN)
Mathis, Jeff (ANA)
Paulino, Ronny (NYM)
Aybar, Erick (ANA)
Cano, Robinson (NYY)
Morse, Michael (WAS)
Roberts, Ryan (ARI)
Sandoval, Pablo (SF)
Wigginton, Ty (COL)
Valencia, Danny (MIN)
Bonifacio, Emilio (FLA)
Granderson, Curtis (NYY)
Morrison, Logan (FLA)
Reddick, Josh (BOS)
Torres, Andres (SF)