The Chinese Taipei Baseball Association (CTBA) announced the creation of a new semi-professional summer baseball league named the Popcorn League in Taipei earlier this week with the aim of improving the quality of amateur-level play.
Top amateur teams Taiwan Cooperative Bank, Topco Scientific, Veetime, National Sports Training Center and Chii Lih Coral of Taitung are to take part in the inaugural season for reportedly 150 games that will run from late next month to early September, with a post-season series to follow.
With five of the top amateur teams already committed to joining the league and a sixth, Taiwan Power, seriously considering following suit, this summer promises to be an exciting one for local baseball fans as there will be two baseball leagues playing at the same time for the first time in nearly 15 years, following the merger between the former Taiwan Major League (TML) and the current professional league, the Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL).
Joining the CTBA as the main sponsors of the new league will be local sports broadcaster Videoland Sports, which recently lost the bid to carry CPBL games on its local cable network for the first time in 18 years.
“This is by no means a way to protest the loss of our bid to carry CPBL games,” Videoland Sports president Wen Da-pei said at the press conference, saying that instead, it expressed his company’s commitment to improving the level of play in local amateur baseball.
“We would consider even carrying both leagues’ games if the right opportunity comes along,” Wen added.
The move by Videoland Sports is undoubtedly a way for the broadcaster to keep its foothold in the business, with other broadcasters, such as Fox Sports Network and to a lesser extent, Formosa Television, aggressively looking to expand their market share.
While the new league’s attitude toward the CPBL appears to be a benevolent one, it does openly acknowledge that the creation of the new league has a lot to do with the CPBL’s refusal to send its players to represent Taiwan in the upcoming Asian Games, after the CPBL said it needs to protect them, as the CTBA is expected to assemble a national team without the help of the CPBL for the first time in long time.
“We are in no way in competition with the CPBL, as our mission is clearly to improve the amateur play in the game,” CTBA commissioner Chen Tai-cheng said at the press conference with several of the sport’s top officials backing his statement.
“In fact, we see ourselves as a means to provide a steady stream of talented players for the CPBL,” Chen added.
To achieve that goal, the Popcorn League will work in collaboration with Major League Baseball in the US by allowing up to four foreign players and one coach on each team to enhance the level of its play, with the imported players likely to be from the 3A level.