Wed, Nov 05, 2003 - Page 20 News List

Baseball stars battle for Olympic berth in Japan

By Paul Huang  /  CONTRIBUTING REPORTER

With China winning all three games of the semifinal round of the 2003 Asian Baseball Championship for the right to advance, out-scoring the Philippines, Indonesia, and Pakistan by a combined margin of 41-1, the stage is set for Taiwan, South Korea and host Japan in the final round of competition today at the Sapporo Dome in Hokkaido, Japan.

This year's top two teams will earn a spot in the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.

The last time that Taiwan qualified was in 1991, where it went on to claim the Silver Medal in the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games.

Japan and South Korea made the 1996 and 2000 Olympics while Taiwan was left out in the cold.

"We were quite loose back then [1991], because all the pressure to win was on the other two teams [Japan and South Korea]," Sinon Bulls' second baseman Huang Chung-yi (黃忠義) said. "Maybe that's the approach we ought to take in this year's championship too."

Huang was selected to represent Taiwan in Sapporo in October. He joins Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL) standouts Chen Chih-yuan (陳致遠), Peng Cheng-ming (彭政閔), Chang Tai-shan (張泰山), Cheng Jau-han (鄭兆行), Yeh Jung-chang (葉君璋), Hsieh Jia-shien (謝佳賢), Huang Kang-lin (黃甘霖).

Also joining the crew is slugger Chen Chin-feng (陳金峰) of the Los Angeles Dodgers' AAA affiliate and a pitching staff that features the heroes of the Taiwan national team that won the Bronze Medal in the 2001 World Cup Tournament, Chang Chih-jia (張誌家) and Hsu Ming-jeh (許明傑) (both of whom play for the Seibu Lions of the Nippon Professional Baseball League) and Wang Chien-ming (王建民) of the New York Yankee's AA affiliate.

Taiwan's National Council on Physical Fitness and Sports (行政院體育委員會), in conjunction with the CPBL and local sports promoters, have teamed up to partially subsidize over 1,500 fans for a six-day trip to Sapporo.

"There is no question that the Japanese and South Koreans match up better against our players in just about every position. I wouldn't like our chances in a seven-game series against either team," Taiwan Head Coach Hsu Sheng-ming (徐生明) told local Chinese-language media.

"In a one-game, do-or-die situation, however, anything is possible. It will really depend on which team peaks at the right time."

Taiwan will begin the final round against South Korea at noon Taiwan time, before tomorrow's showdown against Japan (6:30pm Taiwan time) and Friday's contest against a greatly improved Chinese squad (noon Taiwan time).

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