Sun, Jul 11, 2004 - Page 24 News List

National baseball squad gets ready to rumble

By Paul Huang  /  CONTRIBUTING REPORTER

Taiwan's baseball dream team for the Athens Summer Olympic Games next month features 11 pitchers, two catchers, seven infielders, and four outfielders.

In addition to the 12 Chinese Professional Baseball League players, the 24-man roster includes Taiwan's only two players with American Major League Baseball experience in Chen Chin-feng (陳金鋒) of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Tsao Chin-hui (曹錦輝) of the Colorado Rockies. The roster is rounded out with Chang Chih-jia (張誌家), a starter for the Seibu Lions in the Nippon Professional Baseball League.

Other current American minor leaguers include Wang Jien-ming (王建民) with the New York Yankees farm team and Chen Yung-jee (陳鏞基) of the Seattle Mariners.

Players on the Taiwan national squad that are in Japan's minor league are Chen Wei-ying (陳偉殷) of the Chunichi Dragons and Lin Wei-chu (林威助) of the Hanshin Tigers.

Rounding out the team are five amateur ballplayers: Lin Yueh-ping (林岳平), Chuang Hung-liang (莊宏亮), Du Chang-wei (杜章偉), Gheng Bo-hsuen (耿伯軒), and Kao Chih-gang (高志綱).

Chinatrust Whales skipper Hsu Sheng-ming (徐生明), who will double as the national team's head coach will have his hands full with seven first-round games scheduled over an eight-day period in a round-robin format ahead of the four-team, single-elimination medal round.

The eight teams that will compete in the 2004 Athens Games are Cuba, Canada, Italy, Netherlands, Taiwan, Japan, Australia and Greece.

Perennial powerhouses the US (also the defending champions from the 2000 Sydney Games) and South Korea will not be competing as both failed to win in their respective regional qualifying tournaments late last year.

The Olympic scheduling committee didn't do the Taiwan national team any favors in Game 1 by matching them up with the 1992 silver-medal winning Canadian club that is filled with mostly American minor leaguers.

In Game 2, Taiwan will take on another formidable opponent in Australia before an easier contest against the Greeks in Game 3.

Taiwan will face the two-time Olympic champions Cuba in Game 4 before facing the Italians in Game 5. Archrival Japan is slated for Game 6, followed by the Dutch in Game 7.

Other than the heavily favored Cuba, the race for the Silver and Bronze medal appears to be wide open as Taiwan, Japan, Canada, and Australia, all armed with several triple-A and double-A minor leaguers, take the field as solid medal contenders.

Such fierce competition is likely to make the diamonds hotter than the blazing summer heat in Greece next month.

In the meantime, things will cool off in Taiwan as the CPBL takes a one-month break while all eyes become fixed on the national teams' quest for Olympic glory.

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