Lottery winner breathes life into Hualien baseball

Staff writer, with CNA

Fri, Mar 15, 2013 - Page 5

Baseball enthusiasts and government officials in Hualien have expressed their gratitude for a massive donation from a lottery winner that could reinvigorate the sport in the area.

The Taiwan Lottery Co said earlier this week that the winner of a lottery jackpot in December last year would donate NT$120 million (US$4.04 million) — 25 percent of his winnings after tax — to Hualien County to promote national junior baseball games.

The lottery winner, who was born and raised in Hualien, but now works in New Taipei City (新北市), was touched by local fans’ passionate support for the national team during the World Baseball Classic and decided to help the sport’s development in his hometown.

A Hualien County Athletics Federation baseball committee official said local residents welcomed the donation and were excited by the benefactor’s generosity.

The county’s Department of Education director Chen Yu-ming (陳玉明) also expressed his excitement.

Chen said that according to estimates by baseball enthusiasts, about NT$1 million is required to host a national junior baseball competition with 35 teams.

However, as the lottery winner donated such a large sum, it might be better to use the fund for long-term development of the sport in the county, Chen said, adding that the final decision rests with the donor.

In Hualien, much of the equipment used by junior baseball teams in local schools is worn out due to a lack of funds.

The Yuli Primary School baseball team practices with old balls, the bases have been repaired repeatedly and the players use bats held together with tape.

At Rueisuei Elementary School, the junior baseball team has been disbanded three times due to a lack of funds since it was established more than 30 years ago.

Students playing in the two teams said they are happy that someone is willing to support local baseball through the donation, but added that the teams need long-term sponsorship and training to establish a solid foundation.