01 March 2013

2013 World Baseball Classic: Chinese Taipei

This is the sixth in a series to introduce everyone to teams participating in 2013's World Baseball Classic.  As this series progress, you will find all of the articles under this key world: 2013 World Baseball Classic.  Previously, we reviewed Australia, Brazil, Canada, Cuba, Korea, Netherlands, Puerto Rico, and the USA.

The body of the Chinese Taipei article was written by Stuart Wallace.

Chinese Taipei
IBAF Ranking (out of 74) 5th
2013 Pool Netherlands


2013 Players of Note Chien-Ming Wang, P

Yao-Lin Wang, P

Che-Hsuan Lin, OF

Dai-Kang Yang, OF

Hong-Chih Kuo, P

2009 Record 0 - 2, First Round

2006 Record 1 - 2, First Round

Formosa, Taiwan, Chinese Taipei. Whatever moniker you use to call this small island nation, its history is inextricably married to not only mainland China, but Japan, and its baseball history is no different. While the origins of baseball in the country are somewhat recent compared to some of the other baseball playing nations of the WBC, Chinese Taipei baseball can boast the unique quality of being a battle born endeavor, brought to the nation by the Japanese, after defeating the Chinese Qing Dynasty in the First Sino-Japanese War, which saw Taiwan being ceded to Japan in 1895. At this time, it was a pastime for the colonial elite, only played by Japanese administrators. However, with the ushering in of the 20th Century, the game, then called Yakyu, the Japanese word for baseball, quickly spread across both country and social class, with passion for the game being shared by Japanese and native Taiwanese alike. In spite of these dubious early beginnings, a path was nonetheless forged for baseball to become the national sport of the nation, and for the nation to be a sleeping giant in international baseball circles, culminating in a current IBAF ranking of 5th, rubbing shoulders with such powers as Korea and Canada.

The first organized baseball game in Chinese Taipei happened in 1906 in the nation's capital city and largest city, Taipei, between schools that would be precursors to the Jianguo High School and the Taipei Municipal University of Education. The game was played to a 5-5 tie, but set the precedent for teams to form across the island, primarily in the more populated northern portion of the nation. However, the sport wasn't a truly national and international affair until 1931, when the Chiayi School of Agriculture and Forestry, located in the southern, and more rural part of the island, was the Taiwan representative for the Pan-Japanese High School Yakyu Tournament, ultimately placing second. However, as soon as Chinese Taipei enjoyed the fruits of their baseball labors, it was quickly dampened by impending war. With World War II came a large resentment and concomitant disassociation with their Japanese occupiers, and with it a reduction in the popularity of baseball.

With the end of the war, and the formation of a nationalist government came a renaissance of sorts of baseball on the island, seen especially in their dominance of amateur youth baseball; from 1969-1982, the country enjoyed not only a resurgence of amateur baseball programs and participation, but 13 Little League World Series championships. Postwar baseball in Taiwan also found itself under a new name in international circles – Chinese Taipei. While initially performing under the name the United Team of Taiwan, diplomatic and political pressures forced the name change that we know today. More recently, Taiwanese baseball has enjoyed a modest amount of regional and international success, with appearances in the Asian Championship (26), Baseball World Cup (14), Intercontinental Cup (10), Asian Games (4), and Olympics (4), culminating in a bronze medal in the 1992 Olympics, as well as championships in both the Asian Games (2006) and Asian Championships (1987, 2001).
Professional baseball on the island has experienced a short albeit tumultuous history. The Chinese Professional Baseball League had its start in 1990, and has been rocked by a number of gambling and game fixing scandals between 1997 and 2008. An expansion of sorts occurred in 2003 with the CPBL absorbing the rival Taiwan Major League amidst these scandals, with the modern day CPBL consisting of four teams: the Brother Elephants, Lamigo Monkeys, Uni-President 7-Eleven Lions, and the EDA Rhinos, a team in the news recently for having a deal in place for Manny Ramirez to suit up for them, should he not find MLB work this season. In terms of Taiwanese baseball players in the major leagues, the list is short, starting with Chin-Feng Chen, debuting in 2002 with the Los Angeles Dodgers, and ending most recently with 12 game winner, Wei-Yin Chen of the Baltimore Orioles. Overall, MLB talent coming from the island is of the pitching variety, with 5 of the 8 players with MLB experience being pitchers.
Speaking of pitchers, the 2013 iteration of the Chinese Taipei WBC roster is loaded with current of former MLB level pitching talent, including the oft-injured likes of former New York Yankee and Washington National Chien-Ming Wang and former Dodger Hong Chih-Kuo, along with Chicago Cubs prospect Yao-Lin Wang. Overall, the team's hopes for moving on to the second round of the WBC, and overcoming the power of Pacific Rim foe Korea will be its pitching, with offensive production resting in the hands and bat of current Brother Elephant first baseman Cheng-Ming Peng. The future of Chinese Taipei is bright, and tied heavily to its young talent having a breakout WBC. With a significant presence already forged in the major league ranks, having 28 Taiwanese players with professional ties in the US, it will be a matter of their youth to build upon their past WBC performance, and their 1-4 record in 2 previous appearances. While small geographically, Chinese Taipei continues to loom large on the international baseball landscape; however, in order to rise above the likes of Canada and Korea, it will be a question of timely pitching and the continued development of their MLB caliber prospects that will propel them to victory in Taichung.

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