Taiwan yesterday defeated South Korea 4-0 in the opening game of the Asian Baseball Championship in front of a crowd of more than 16,000 at the newly opened Taipei Dome.
The team was led by a starting pitcher Hsu Ruo-hsi, who in a dominant performance recroded 10 strikeouts and allowed only two hits in seven scoreless innings on the mound.
Eighteen-year-old Sun I-lei came to close out the final two innings, ensuring that Taiwan hung on to their four-run lead, after scoring three runs in the third inning and another in the fourth.
The eight-day championship is to take place at the Taipei Dome, Taichung Intercontinental Baseball Stadium and New Taipei City’s Xinzhuang Baseball Stadium, the Baseball Federation of Asia has said.
Taiwan and South Korea are in Group A along with Hong Kong and Palestine, while Japan, the Philippines, Pakistan and Thailand are in Group B. The super round is scheduled for Friday and Saturday and the finals are on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Japanese baseball legend Sadaharu Oh expressed his high expectations for the future of the sport in Taiwan at the opening ceremony for the Taipei Dome on Saturday.
Oh, a Taiwanese-Japanese known as the “global home-run king” for scoring 868 homers in his pro career, was invited to Taiwan to throw the first pitch in Taiwan’s first indoor baseball stadium, which he called a watershed moment in the nation’s baseball history.
“The completion of the Taipei Dome is a milestone in Asia. It is as great as the ones in Tokyo and Fukuoka, maybe even better. I hope the [Taiwanese] players can have more confidence and fight for the glory of Taiwan and Asia. Team Taiwan must beat Team South Korea tomorrow,” Oh said.
Also at the ceremony were World Baseball Softball Confederation president Riccardo Fraccari, CTBA president Jeffrey Koo Jr and Taipei Mayor Chiang Wan-an.
Oh said he was honored and pleased to be attending the Taipei Dome opening ceremony, and recalled how his legs were shaking when he attended the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Dome in 1988 — 35 years ago.
The Tokyo Dome was the first of five indoor baseball stadiums built in Japan.
At a banquet on Friday evening, Oh said having a dome could elevate the competitiveness of Taiwan’s baseball and could also help draw more supporters.
He noted the size of the Taipei Dome and its high roof, saying that he now thinks more about the “fan experience” because his job is running a franchise, not playing and coaching.
The 83-year-old legend flew to Taiwan against his doctor’s advice due to health issues.
Koo, who caught Oh’s first pitch, said that he had been worried about Oh’s condition, but that any concerns were dispelled as soon as he saw Oh walking faster than him at the airport.
Calling Oh the “God of Baseball,” Koo said that the legend has never given up his Republic of China nationality, even though he grew up and lived in Japan, adding that Oh is “more than an outstanding athlete, he is a great athlete who has contributed a lot to Japan and Taiwan.”
Oh has left his mark on many of the historic moments in Taiwanese baseball, be it ups and downs.
In 1990, for example, he took to the batter’s box for the ceremonial first pitch in the first-ever game in the CPBL’s inaugural season.
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