Sat, Feb 24, 2018 - Page 3 News List

Reporter’s Notebook: Fans indignant about the KMT’s control over baseball

By Jason Pan 潘紀揚  /  Staff reporter

Chinese Professional Baseball League commissioner John Wu, middle, also a Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislator, on Sept. 18 last year holds a game schedule for the Asia Professional Baseball Championship with Chiba Lotte Marines’ team president Shinya Yamamuro, together with Lamigo manager Hung Yi-chung, left, and Taoyuan Mayor Cheng Wen-tsan, right, during a news conference in Taipei.

Photo: Fang Bin-chao, Taipei Times

Most Taiwanese will cast aside their differences of opinion to rally behind the nation’s star players at major international sports tournaments — especially when it comes to baseball — and many fans have long desired to give their full, unbridled support by uniting behind “Team Taiwan.”

That enthusiasm and loyalty can be seen in the fervor and passion with which fans supported the national baseball team during last year’s World Baseball Classic (WBC), the Asia Professional Baseball Championship and the Taipei Summer Universiade.

Baseball is the most popular game in the nation with over a century of history. It started taking root at schools and social institutions when organized baseball was introduced to Taiwan by the Japanese in 1906.

Leaders and officials of the nation’s different political parties are divided on many issues, but they will unite as one for baseball, cheering for the national team at international competitions.

However, the continued use of “Chinese Taipei” as the team’s title is increasingly at odds with people’s perception of a Taiwanese identity as distinct from a Chinese one, and it also diverges from the nation’s political environment as it has changed over the past decades.

The main reasons for the use of “Chinese Taipei” are inertia and conservatives forces within the two main baseball bodies, the Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL) and Chinese Taipei Baseball Association (CTBA), which together enjoy a virtual monopoly over the game.

The CPBL and CTBA are known to be ruled at the top by oligarchies of mostly Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) politicians — whose families and lackeys use their positions to reap benefits and business contracts — and through nepotism and cronyism, according to sports reform activists.

This kind of tight control by KMT politicians who want to increase their power and benefit their businesses is prevalent across Taiwan’s sports bodies, according to publications by the “Fair Game! Taiwan!” (台灣改革聯會) alliance of campaigners.

The gridlock in which power in sports is held by pan-blue politicians was in full display when KMT Legislator John Wu (吳志揚) met little opposition on his way to obtain a second term as head of the CPBL, in which position he was confirmed at a general assembly on Jan. 17.

Wu is to serve another three years as CPBL commissioner, the unofficial czar of the nation’s professional baseball, an office that he has held since 2015.

Meanwhile, former KMT legislator Liao Cheng-ching (廖正井), who has been leading the CTBA since 2015, can reportedly expect a tough battle next month.

Liao is seeking a second three-year term as the association’s chairman, but it has been reported that he faces a strong challenge from Jeffrey Koo Jr (辜仲諒), who owns the Brothers Baseball Club and is a major shareholder in CTBC Financial Holding Co, which is controlled by his family.

“We will strive with all our effort to restore Taiwanese baseball to its former glory through revitalization plans,” Wu said as he officially entered his second term as CPBL commissioner. “The priority is to expand the league by adding fifth and sixth teams to the current format.”

Wu also unveiled a platform illustrated with an image of five interlocking rings, representing the CPBL’s five focal themes for the next three years: consolidating the grassroots, professional training, business expansion, international participation and deepening friendships with other “baseball nations.”

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