Benefiting from the success that Taiwan enjoyed in the World Baseball Classic, and the arrival of former US Major League players Manny Ramirez and Hu Chin-lung, the Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL) is enjoying its best season in more than a decade as fans flock to the ballparks to watch their favorite players in action.
Even though a waist injury has limited Ramirez to just four games in an EDA Rhinos uniform in the first two weeks of the season, his popularity has already given a much-needed boost to the sport.
With average game attendances reaching more than 9,000 and several games already drawing sellout crowds, the future of the game has never looked so bright.
“We are very happy to see the fans making their way to the games to give us the kind of support we haven’t seen in years,” CPBL commissioner Hwang Jenn-tai said earlier this week.
His crew worked very hard with the Chinese Taipei Baseball Association, the nation’s other official baseball authority, to organize the first round for the World Baseball Classic in Greater Taichung last month.
Also making waves in the early days of the season are former New York Mets infielder Hu Chin-lung and former Seattle Mariners minor leaguer Kao Guo-hui, who are hitting .310 and .406 respectively for the Rhinos, giving their fans a lot to talk about.
With a lineup that features Ramirez, Hu and Kao, the pressure to win will lie on the Rhinos’ pitching and defense, with starters Lin Chen-hua and Lin Chi-wei struggling and a defense that has given up a league-high nine unearned runs in seven contests.
The league-leading Uni-President Lions have also made a big splash in the league with a quick six wins in their eight games through Wednesday to claim a one-and-a-half-game lead over the second-placed Rhinos.
Leading the Lions’ offense are Chen Yung-chi and Kao Chih-kang, who are batting .379 and .409 respectively to champion an attack that is batting .307 against the opposing pitcher to plate more than five runs per game.