(Story by Marco Stoovelaar)
Regular season professional league in Taiwan opens
TAINAN / TAICHUNG (Taiwan) -
The new season in the professional baseball-league in Taiwan officially opened on Saturday (March 13).
The 32nd season of the Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL) opened with a home-game for reigning champion Uni-President 7-Eleven Lions against CTBC Brothers.
The opening game in the Tainan Municipal Baseball Stadium was attended by 7.800 spectators, or 78% of the stadium's capacity, which is 10.000.
For the first time in history, there are five teams in the league.
Last year, the Lions and Brothers faced each other in the Taiwan Series.
All seven games were needed in the Championship Final, which was won by Lions 4-3.
In Saturday's opening game, the roles were reversed as the visiting Brothers won 10-4, despite being outhit 14-8.
The team took an early 3-0 lead in the first inning, but Lions came alongside in the second inning off of Dominican starter Josť de Paula Carmona.
The 33-year old righthander pitched in one Major League-game for New York Yankees in 2015, then returned to Triple-A after that game.
In following seasons, De Paula pitched in an independent league in Japan (2017) and Mexico (2018, 2019).
In January 2020, he signed with Brothers in Taiwan.
Last season, he led the CPBL in wins (16) and strikeouts (192) and also had the best ERA (3.20).
Afterwards, De Paula was voted Most Valuable Player of the season.
Brothers re-took the lead in the third at bat.
With two runners on base and no outs in the bottom of the fifth inning, Chi-Che Tsai took over the pitching from De Paula and avoided giving up runs.
Brothers then took more distance in the sixth inning when Chih-Hao Chang hit a 2-run homerun, the first of the CPBL-season.
Lions narrowed the deficit to 6-4 in the bottom of the sixth, but Brothers decided the game with a 4-run rally in the eighth.
The first run in the inning was scored on a basesloaded walk and later, Chi-Hung Hsu added a 3-run homerun.
The opening game was attended by Taiwanese President Ing-wen Tsai, who became the first Head of State to attend the baseball-opener since 2010.
In May 2016, Mrs. Tsai became the seventh President (and first female) of Taiwan since 1948.
On Sunday, two games were played.
Lions then nipped Wei Chuan Dragons 3-2 in Tainan, while Brothers lost 10-6 to Fubon Guardians in Taichung.
In 1990, Dragons was one of the original teams in the first-ever professional season of the CPBL, but the team withdrew after the 1999 season.
This season, Dragons returns.
Rakuten Monkeys, the fifth team in the league, didn't play yet in the Opening Weekend.
Last season, the CPBL was the first professional league that opened in the midst of the corona-pandemic.
Initially, there were no spectators allowed at the games.
But as things went the right way with the battling of the coronavirus, more and more spectators were allowed to be in stadiums.
First, 250 were allowed, but that grew to 2.000 and in the second half of the season, 78 percent of the stadium's capacities were allowed to be filled with spectators.
The 78% is also the rule for this season.
According to protocols, all spectators must wear a face mask at all time, except when someone is eating.
Also, before entering the stadium, all fans must register their name and ID-numbers.
All teams will play 120 games in the Taiwanese season, which is divided into two halves.
Only the schedule for the first half has been announced, which has to do with the scheduling for the WBSC Baseball Final Olympic Qualifier, which will be organized in Taiwan.
The CPBL-season will be interrupted for this event and then also for the Olympic Games in Japan.
The Final Qualifier probably will be played in June, but definitive dates have not yet been announced.
The field of participants for the Final Qualifier is not complete yet, as two teams will be coming from the WBSC Baseball Americas Qualification Event.
That tournament was originally scheduled for March last year in Arizona (USA), but was cancelled due to the coronavirus-pandemic.
Canada, Colombia, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico, the USA and Venezuela will participate in this event, which also has no dates confirmed yet.
The winner becomes the fifth team to qualify for the Olympic Games.
The teams in second and third place will advance to the Final Qualifier in Taiwan with the winner of that event becoming the sixth and final participant in the Olympic baseball-tournament.
The two teams from the Americas Qualifier will join Australia, China, Chinese Taipei and the Netherlands in the Final Qualifier.
At this moment, only host Japan, Israel, Mexico and South Korea have qualified for the Olympics.