Sun, Dec 14, 2003 - Page 8 News List


Developing local baseball

Taiwanese left-handed pitcher Cheng Chi-Hung (鄭錡鴻), who is the first player from Taiwan ever signed by the Toronto Blue Jays, one of the 30 major league baseball clubs in North America, gives all baseball buffs here a great chance to ponder where Taiwan's baseball industry can go and how far.

The 18-year-old Cheng is among the young, promising ballplayers from this country who are set to sign contracts with some affiliates of major league teams. Baseball, both historically and culturally, matters to Taiwan.

The 14-year-old Chinese Professional Baseball League is still developing, or more specifically, toddling, and is said to be in its infancy by baseball critics at home and abroad. Compared to the US and Japan, which have world-class baseball stars, Taiwan has a tiny market for pro baseball. However, the principal owners and general managers of the six clubs here seem as if they do not really want to spend money on players.

Among them, the Brother Elephants, a team easily recognizable by its yellow uniform, which just grabbed the championship this season, stands as a typical example of a Taiwanese pro baseball team that has long been "Japanized."

The young Elephants players call the veterans "xien-bai" (前輩), a Japanese term which shows great respect to the more experienced players based on how many years they have played in the pros.

I am not saying this sort of "Japanization" does nothing good for pro baseball here, but I am writing this letter to show my concern over the way the baseball industry is being rapidly globalized and, frankly, Americanized. The US is armed with top players from all over the globe, including Asia (Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and even China), South America (mainly Cuba, Venezuela and Puerto Rico) and Australia.

"Japanized" pro baseball here in Taiwan is going to be the biggest loser in this terrifying globalization of the baseball industry unless there are measures by the government and an awakening of all the clubs' owners and general managers.

Young baseball talents here have a dream: they want to make it big in the US major leagues, or at least in the flashy, modern domes in the Land of the Rising Sun. They are doing nothing wrong and this has nothing to do with patriotism or nationalism.

Get the young baseball hopefuls in here with contracts that are inclusive of free agency, the right to exercise power through a players' union and, most importantly, a contract offer that is up to US or Japanese standards.

Eventually Taiwan will show the rest of the globe its unique baseball culture and will pass on our inestimable baseball heritage to the next generation.

Roger Cheng


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