Thu, Jan 17, 2019 - Page 1 News List

Weichuan Dragons baseball team in revival negotiations

By Jason Pan  /  Staff reporter

Ting Hsin International Group (頂新集團) yesterday confirmed that talks are under way to revive the Weichuan Dragons professional baseball team, while Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) said that the city would support the franchise.

After several months of negotiations, the group is expected to file a formal application to join the Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL), CPBL commissioner John Wu (吳志揚) said.

The team would need to go through an approval process and pay several fees to join the CPBL, Wu said.

“If everything goes smoothly, the team could be formed later this year, join the farm team circuit next year and become the fifth CPBL team for the 2021 season,” he said.

Work is under way to hire star players and former Weichuan officials to manage the team, who won the CPBL championship four times before they were disbanded at the end of the 1999 season, Ting Hsin spokesman Ou Yang Shao-wei (歐陽劭瑋) said.

In particular, Ou Yang mentioned Fubon Guardians pitching coach and former New York Yankees pitcher Wang Chien-ming (王建民), former Weichuan deputy manager George Chao (趙士強), former Weichuan slugger Chang Tai-shan (張泰山), who plays on the amateur circuit, and former Weichuan pitching ace Huang Ping-yang (黃平洋).

Ting Hsin executives have reportedly been planning to base the franchise in Kaohsiung, since the city has not had a professional baseball team for several years.

In 2016, E United Group (義聯集團) sold the Kaohsiung-based EDA Rhinos to Fubon Financial Group (富邦集團), which renamed the team Fubon Guardians and relocated them to New Taipei City.

“We in Kaohsiung welcome the team with open arms, and I will ask the city government to provide all the support needed to make this happen,” Han said. “It will have a very positive effect on our city’s economic development.”

However, Ting Hsin’s reputation remains a hurdle due to its involvement in a tainted oil scandal, observers said.

In 2014, several officials of Ting Hsin subsidiaries were found guilty of fraud, forgery and contraventions of food regulations for using tainted oil in food products from 2007 to 2013.

To join the CPBL, Ting Hsin would be required to pay fees totaling NT$580 million (US$18.81 million) — NT$120 million for a franchise fee, NT$360 million as collateral for five years and NT$100 million to support amateur baseball.

The news sparked heated discussion online, where many people opposed the plan, citing Ting Hsin’s involvement in the oil scandal and its owners’ disbanding of the team in 1999 after they won their third consecutive CPBL championship.

Fans said they would never forgive the company’s owners, the Wei (魏) brothers, for “killing off” the team, as Weichuan were one of the league’s founding clubs and among its most popular.

Fans also questioned the company’s motives, saying that it is attempting to clean up its reputation.

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