With major-league caliber players anchoring its pitching staff and a potent lineup, Team Taiwan has only one thing in mind in the baseball competitions of the 2006 Asian Games: bring home the gold from Doha, Qatar, where more than 10,000 athletes and team officials from 45 countries and regions in Asia will take part in this year's event.
The six-team baseball competition for this year will feature Asia's perennial powerhouses from Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, also known as the "Iron Triad" along with China, Thailand and the Philippines, which will play a round-robin preliminary round before the top four teams advance into the medal rounds.
Standing in Taiwan's way in its quest for the gold this year will be South Korea, which will send a squad consisting of mostly professional players to take on the Taiwanese in the opening game for both teams this afternoon, where the winners will likely breeze through the preliminaries without much trouble with Japan opting to fill its roster this year with mostly amateur players, instead of the usual crew of mostly professionals.
Taking the mound for Taiwan in the all-important contest against South Korea will be lefty ace Kuo Hong-chih (starting pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers of the US Major Leagues), whose fastball is clocked at more than 150kph with a nasty slider that breaks late and hard.
Leading the attack for Team Taiwan will be Kuo's former Dodgers mate Chen Chin-fong (La New Bears), whose 81 RBIs during the regular season were second to none in Taiwan's Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL) with great speed around the base paths (Chen also had 20 stolen bases during the regular season).
Also in the talent-rich Taiwanese starting rotation are right-hander Chiang Jien-ming of the Yomiuri Giants (Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball League-NPB) and Pan "Du Du" Wei-luen of the President Lions, who will share the rest of the four other starts with Kuo in the preliminaries.
Offensively for Taiwan, Lin Wei-chu of the Hanshin Tigers (NPB), Chen Yong-ji and Lin Chih-sheng (Bears) will also look to contribute with their bats that helped their country win a third-place finish in the Intercontinental Cup in Taichung earlier this month.
"We are confident that we will do well this year, with all the fire power and pitching help we got from the players abroad," head coach Yeh Chih-shien said in an earlier press conference.