The Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL) announced yesterday afternoon that the Cuban national baseball team is scheduled to visit Taiwan for a two-game series, in an effort to raise the visibility of the game.
The friendly two-game series between the world’s top baseball team, also known as the “Red Lightning,” and the best and brightest that the CPBL has to offer, is scheduled to take place in November.
The opener has been set for the Intercontinental Baseball Stadium in Taichung on Nov. 12, followed by Game 2 scheduled for Nov. 13 at the Taoyuan International Baseball Stadium in Taoyuan.
“We are all delighted to have the opportunity to host this historical event, especially with a world-class team such as Cuba coming to play us,” CPBL commissioner Jenn-Tai Hwang said at the press conference at the Taipei Evergreen Laurel Hotel in Taipei.
Hwang was joined by the Chinese Taipei Baseball Association’s executive commissioner Tom Peng, without whose efforts the event would not be possible, along with International Baseball Federation (IBAF) president Riccardo Fraccari and Antonio Castro of team Cuba.
The two-game series will mark the first time that the Cuban national team plays in a single-opponent international competition that does not involve an IBAF-sponsored tournament in Taiwan, even though it is an event officially sanctioned by the IBAF.
“We hope [the event] will help strengthen our position in our petition to reinstitute baseball at the 2020 Summer Olympics,” Peng said yesterday.
Baseball was eliminated from the Summer Olympics after 2008.
Taiwan is not alone in the effort to reinstitute baseball at the 2020 Summer Olympics. Other Asian baseball powerhouses such as Japan and South Korea are also eager to make baseball an Olympic sport again, with talks for the Cuban national team to play against the professional team or the national team in Japan and South Korea in progress.
“We have not confirmed any dates or teams to play against [Japan or South Korea] yet, even though we’d love to make the Asian trip a longer one,” Castro told the Taipei Times yesterday.
Many believe that by the time of their arrival in Taiwan, the Cubans will have both Japan and South Korea on their itinerary.
Team Cuba will come to Taiwan with a full-strength lineup headed by household names such as Yulieski Gourriel, Jose Dariel Abreu, Vladimir Garcia Escalante and Yadier Pedroso.
“This is definitely the best lineup that Cuba can put together,” Castro said.
The level of talent on the team is so great that several of the Cuban players are considered instant top-round draft choices in the Major League in the US.