Wed, Oct 11, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Yankees are out, but baseball proves to still be alive and well in Taiwan

By Max Hirsch  /  STAFF REPORTER

With the Yankees' stunning elimination from the Major League Baseball playoffs on Saturday, Taiwan -- with its native son and Yankees starting pitcher Wang Chien-ming's (王建民) season over -- doesn't have much in the way of baseball to celebrate this week.

Or does it?

Taiwan's Public Television Service (PTS) announced yesterday that its eight-volume documentary on the history of baseball here would go on sale today. Although its release comes at a bad time for the nation's most celebrated baseball player, the series is a fitting tribute to a century of baseball in Taiwan.

This year marks the sport's 100th year here. It was introduced to the country by Japan during the colonial period, PTS general manager Hu Yuan-hui (胡元輝) said.

The television network held a press conference in Taipei yesterday to announce the release of the documentary and screen a segment before an audience of domestic baseball officials and Seattle Mariners minor league shortstop Chen Yun-chi (陳鏞基).

Although the screened segment focused on Wang, Hu said that the full documentary was about "how Wang came to be," a reference to the generations of legendary baseball players that preceded Wang and established a tradition of baseball on the island.

"This documentary is about Taiwan," filmmaker Hsieh Shih-yuan (謝仕淵) said, referring to how his documentary narrates the history of baseball in the country and how the sport has brought together countless fans over the years.

"When I first heard an ESPN announcer refer to Wang [Chien-ming] as a Taiwanese, I felt so proud," Chen told reporters yesterday, adding that Wang has been "Taiwan's cultural ambassador to the world."

The minor league prospect himself is rising fast through the Seattle Mariners' farm system and hopes to join his compatriot in the big leagues soon.

"I've got some pretty big shoes to fill," Chen said.

Wayne Lee, secretary general of the Chinese Professional Baseball League, praised the documentary at the conference yesterday for showing how scores of Taiwanese talent have entered Japanese and US professional baseball leagues since the 1980s.

"Wang Chien-ming is part of a trend of exporting baseball talent," Lee said, adding that Taiwanese players were getting better with each generation and that the tradition of baseball was well-entrenched in the social fabric of the nation.

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