With the return of baseball as an Olympic event in 2020, Taiwan has ramped up its efforts to qualify. It's no secret that the nations' fans have been disappointed in recent international competition, most recently a last place finish in Pool A of the 2017 World Baseball Classic.
In addition, tension and conflict came to a head between the CPBL and CTBA (Chinese Taipei Baseball Association) as the Lamigo Monkeys did not allow its players to represent Taiwan in the Classic. It is no secret that the CPBL and CTBA have been at odds when it comes to selection of players, team training, and hosting rights during first-class international baseball events.
However, relations are headed in the right direction as all four CPBL teams have agreed to let two players each (one pitcher, one hitter) represent Taiwan in the upcoming 2018 Asian Games. At one point, former Milwaukee Brewers pitcher and current NC Dinos (Korean Baseball Organization) ace Wang Wei-Chung, was on the roster as well but he bowed out with shoulder discomfort.
Although the Asian Games is not an Olympic-qualifier, you are sorely mistaken if you think Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and even China are not taking the event seriously. Doing well at each tournament builds momentum and confidence for Taiwan's national team and baseball-crazed fans with the ultimate goal of reaching the Olympic field of six teams.
That brings us to the week-long competition from August 26 to September 1 in Jakarta. As mentioned before, each CPBL team is lending a hand by allowing one pitcher and one hitter join the national team in the midst of the second-half of the CPBL.
The eight CPBL players are Chan Tzu-Hsien and Chen Puo-Hao of the Chinatrust Brothers, Su Chih-Chieh (replaced as well due to injury) and Wang Yu-Pu of the Uni Lions, Lin Cheng-Hsien and Shen Hao-Wei of the Fubon Guardians, and Lin Hua-Ching and Lin Cheng-Fei of the Lamigo Monkeys.
The remainder of the 24-man roster is composed of amateur players, mostly from Taiwan Power and Taiwan Cooperative Bank. The national team will be led by Taiwan Cooperative Bank manager Hsu Shun-Yi.
The competition doesn't get much stiffer than Taiwan's first opponent, Korea, who boasts three former-MLB players and a myriad of their best players from the KBO. Hong Kong and host Indonesia round out Pool B.
Pool A undoubtedly belongs to Japan, comprised of players from the Japan Amateur Baseball Association. China, Pakistan, and the winner of the qualifying round (Thailand, Laos, and Sri Lanka) will attempt to keep pace in Pool A.
The top two teams in each pool will advance to the super round whereby the top two teams of the super round will play for gold on September 1. Please see the full schedule here.
So, in the midst of a tight race in the second half of the CPBL (2.5 games separate the top three teams as of August 17), please join me and tune in to cheer on Taiwan's national team as they attempt to return to their former glory.