[ LETTER ]

Fri, Apr 05, 2013 - Page 8

Manny can’t save CPBL

After koalas, penguins, and pandas, Taiwanese have something fresh attracting them to buy tickets: the former Red Sox star slugger Manny Ramirez.

After 18 years in Major League Baseball, Manny chose Taiwan as the last stop of his baseball career. Astonishingly, the 12-time All-Star and scorer of 555 home runs decided to join the EDA Rhinos of the Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL).

“I’m gonna let God guide me,” Manny said.

He also said that an appreciation of Taiwan’s environment prompted him to come here.

However, US media have scoffed at his decision to join the EDA Rhinos, saying the real reason for Manny’s decision to go to Taiwan was the fact that his doping suspension makes him worthless as a free agent.

Taiwanese baseball fans have greeted his presence enthusiastically, with 45,803 people turning up for Manny’s first three games.

However, crowd figures decreased by more than half when Manny was shut down for two successive matches against the Uni-President Lions last weekend.

“It’s the dumbest call. EDA should not rest Manny unless he is injured. We bought tickets to see no one but him,” an anonymous fan complained on the Internet.

This opinion makes me associate Manny with koalas, penguins and pandas, when they first came to Taiwan.

Ironically, huge crowds of people lined up for a long time to look at them, just like the thousands of fans who came to watch Manny play.

Being a genuine fan of Taiwanese professional baseball, it is encouraging for me to see such an extraordinary player as Manny in the league.

Not only can we admire his skills in person, he might be a positive influence, for example, by raising ticket sales.

Our scandal-ridden four-team league needs a boost following repeated cases of match-fixing.

Of course, we hope his presence will reignite people’s passion for baseball. However, the last thing we want to see is people flooding to stadiums only to regard Manny as some kind of peculiar creature.

Last week I went to the Taipei City Zoo and did not find many people standing in line to see the koalas, penguins and pandas.

A similar situation could ultimately happen to Taiwan’s baseball if we flock to arenas merely to enjoy the sight of a new and exotic “creature,” Manny Ramirez.

Whether the boom given to the CPBL by Manny’s arrival proves to be a flash in the pan might eventually be decided by us baseball fans.

Mo Meng-heng

Taipei