Sat, Mar 28, 2009 - Page 19 News List

CPBL20: Ma to toss the first pitch as 20th CPBL season commences

By Paul Huang  /  CONTRIBUTING REPORTER

A full-house is expected at the Taipei Municipal Baseball Stadium in Tianmu this afternoon as the Chinese Professional Baseball League’s (CPBL) 20th season starts with a showdown between the Uni-President Lions and the Brother Elephants.

The highly anticipated rematch of last year’s Taiwan Series that saw the Lions needing to go the full, seven-game distance before capturing their second straight title will feature the Lions ace Pan “Du Du” Wei-luen, who has won at least 10 games in all of the six seasons he has spent in the league and his counterpart Kobayashi Ryokan of the Elephants, who picked up 10 wins in his first season with the Elephants last year with a solid 2.67 earned run average.

Leading the potent attack for the Lions will be Pan Wu-hsiung and Chen Lien-hong, who averaged .346 and .314 with 13 homers apiece last season. The Elephants will try to counter with their own bashing trio consisting of Peng “Chia Chia” Cheng-min, Chen “Golden Warrior” Chih-yuan and Chen Guan-ren, who all finished the year with above .300 averages.

Also making a grand appearance on Opening Day will be President Ma Ying-jeou, who is scheduled to toss the ceremonial first pitch at 5pm to cap a fun-packed pre-game program at the Tienmu ballpark that includes a batting cage and pitcher’s challenge for the youngsters.

Meanwhile, with the admittance of the local professional baseball league into the legalized sports gaming system, all eyes will undoubtedly be focused on how well the players and the league officials fare in the upcoming season, given the longstanding match-fixing problem that has troubled Taiwanese baseball.

Even though the Elephants have openly banned their players from joining the newly established players’ association and taken the heat for being the “odd ball” among the four remaining teams in the league (down from six after the dismantling of the dmedia T-Rex and Chinatrust Whales in the off-season), players from the Lions, the Bears and the Bulls have all agreed to a new self-disciplinary policy instituted by the association that will place 10 percent of each of the three team’s players’ monthly earnings in a league-designated account for as long as they are involved with professional baseball.

A player can only claim his escrowed fund after retirement and after receiving a league-issued certificate clearing him of any involvement with gambling.

“We hope this new policy will make those temped to break the rules from doing so, because a large sum of money could be at stake,” Players Association president Yeh Jung-chang said.

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