The 2011 Taiwan All-Star Series: A Smashing Success for China and Professional Baseball

Who can create the perfect template for the unification of countries and cultures? Major League Baseball(MLB) and the Major League Players Association(MLPA) may have recently succeeded in bringing the Pacific Rim communities closer together while uniting the Republic of China and the United States through a common love for competitive professional sports. During the first week of November in a joint effort to promote the game of baseball internationally and showcase talent from around the world, MLB and MLPA presented the 2011 Taiwan All-Star Series–five sold-out exhibition goodwill baseball games between the U.S. Major League Baseball All-Stars and the Chinese Taipei national team in three different cities in the Republic of China including XinZhuang Stadium in New Taipei City, Inter-continental Stadium in Taichung, and Cheng-Ching Lake Stadium in Kaohsiung. Although the MLB All-Stars were victorious in all of the match ups, the Chinese Taipei national team kept the MLB All-Stars in check and were resilient throughout the games. The Chinese Taipei national team players flashed their speed offensively on the bases and their prowess defensively on the field, striving to be competitive with baseball’s premier league’s elite in all five contests. At the press conference following the conclusion of the five-game series, MLB All-Star Manager and 2010 World Series Champion San Francisco skipper Bruce Bochy praised the Chinese Taipei national team: “It could have gone either way,” said Bochy. “Sure, we won five games, but you could see their confidence growing and they were playing right there with us. It’s good for baseball and for Taiwan. A lot of these are young players playing against the best players in the world, and they were fighting hard. It was a great experience for all of us. We’ve had a great time.”

Based on the public address announcer’s banter and ongoing never give up attitude late into the games, the reactive and enthusiastic crowd’s non-stop chanting and thunder stick thumping, and the live band’s nonstop horn playing and drumming, the real winner of the Taiwan All-Star Series were the baseball fans who wholeheartedly appreciated the games and adorned both teams’ players. The highly successful Taiwan All-Star Series prominently displayed two of Asia’s finest active MLB All-Star pitchers donning their native Chinese Taipei home team uniform–Washington Nationals Chien-Ming Wang and Detroit Tigers lefty reliever Ni Fu-Te. Following his starting pitching performance in the series finale at Cheng-Ching Lake Stadium in Kaohsiung, Taiwan’s pride and joy baseball–Chien-Ming Wang received a bone-chilling standing ovation from his fellow countrymen and teammates. Having pitched for Chinese Taipei in the 2008 Olympics and 2009 World Baseball Classic, the left-hand throwing Fu-Te Ni became a fan favorite in the Chinese Professional Baseball League. Detroit Tiger pitcher Ni Fu-Te started in game four against the MLB All-Stars and fared very well facing his big league foes, only allowing two hits and one earned run in 3 1/3 innings pitched. Missing in action was Taiwanese-born MLB Los Angeles Dodgers Hong-Chih Kuo, who was expected to pitch for the Chinese Taipei national team but instead upon the recommendation of his team doctor skipped the 2011 Taiwan All-Star Series to undergo surgery on his left elbow. With its wealth of talented baseball players, Taiwan is a breeding ground for tomorrow’s MLB All-Stars. Smiling with an ear-to-ear grin, MLB Asia vice president Jim Small looks at the big picture when commenting on the success of the 2011 Taiwan All-Stars Series: “We would love to come back to Taiwan, especially when you see the reception we’ve gotten. I think there’s no doubt that we’ll be back here again.”

Perhaps the highlight of the 2011 Taiwan All-Stars Series was what took place before the international competition began. Although rain would not only delay but cut game one of the five-game series short, the sold-out New Taipei City XinZhuang Stadium crowd’s spirits were not dampened and relished in the sheer excitement which brought together two distinctly different countries and cultures. After the United States and the People’s Republic of China national anthems were played, the international delegation which included Taiwanese president Ma Ying-jeou was introduced. President Ma threw out the ceremonial first-pitch and welcomed the visiting MLB All-Stars to Taiwan. He encouraged friendly competition among the players and fans for the common love of the game. President Ma also presented a trophy to MLB Washington Nationals pitcher Chien-Ming Wang for his invaluable contribution to the international sport of baseball. With a newly signed one-year four-million dollar deal for the 2012 season with the Nationals, the sky is the limit for Wang’s impact on professional baseball worldwide. If there is ever to be a Yao Ming of baseball, it’s Chien-Ming Wang, the former New York Yankees ace and MLB.com 2006 Starting Pitcher of the Year. Orchestrating the media circus that surrounded the 2011 Taiwan All-Star Series, MLB Asia’s Jim Small explained why Wang is a big deal: “You can see the fervor that surrounds him. I’ve spent a lot of time here, and he’s the first Taiwanese global superstar. Not just baseball. Not just sports. He’s made Taiwan famous in the U.S. and around the world. Part of it is that he’s a great pitcher and he has two 19-win seasons. That’s obvious. But it’s more than that. He’s a physically imposing guy. He’s so big and so special. That adds to it as well. It creates an aura about him.” As Bob Marley sang, “there’s a natural mystic flowing through the air” and Chien-Ming Wang certainly is a major player in baseball’s bright future in Asia. With continued cooperation and mutual understanding between China and the U.S., it is just a matter of time before a whole new generation of professional players and fans sprout from the seeds of mutual respect and cultural awareness.

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Televised 2011 Taiwan All-Star Baseball Series Extends MLB Season, Unites Countries & Cultures

While most believe the World Series marks the year end of professional baseball and the beginning of a long drought without America’s favorite pastime, the true diehard fans get a weeklong reprieve as some of Major League Baseball’s best players will go head-to-head against a very talented Chinese Taipei national team beginning November 1st. MLB Network has announced its plans to televise the highly-anticipated 2011 Taiwan All-Star Series, five contests between the MLB All-Stars and the Chinese Taipei national team. The games will be played in three different cities in the Republic of China–November 1 at XinZhuang Stadium in New Taipei City, November 3 & 4 at Intercontinental Stadium in Taichung, and November 5 & 6 at Cheng-Ching Lake Stadium in Kaohsiung. With the exception of a 2 pm(PST) start time on November 5th, first pitch is scheduled for 6 pm(PST) every night. MLB Network’s Greg Amsinger and Larry Bowa will call the games.

“Major League Baseball is excited to take another important step in showcasing our great game to Taiwan, continuing our objective to bring baseball to fans throughout the world,” said Baseball Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig. “We are pleased that many fine players will represent Major League Baseball when they meet the top talents of Taiwan.” The series is made possible through a partnership between MLB and the Major League Players Association in an effort to promote the game of baseball internationally and showcase talent from around the world.

The Republic of China, better known as Taiwan, has a wealth of talented baseball players. Los Angeles Dodgers Hong-Chih Kuo was expected to pitch for the Chinese Taipei national team, but instead upon the recommendation of his Los Angeles-based team doctor skipped the series to undergo surgery on his left elbow. However, there is still Washington Nationals Chien-Ming Wang–the highly-touted Taiwanese-born pitcher once known for his dreaded sinkerball and near 100 mph velocity–who is slated to be among the Chinese Taipei national team’s pitching rotation. Upon his arrival in Taipei last week, Wang commented that it had been a long time since he had played with Taiwanese players but expressed joy in being in his home country of Taiwan. His MLB comeback after two years of rehabilitation from injuries was described by Nationals manager Davey Johnson as “a remarkable season” for Wang, who posted a 4-3 record and a 4.04 ERA. In his final four starts of the season, Wang struck out 16 and walked none in 23 2/3 innings pitched. The Nationals have set a three inning or 60 pitch limit for Wang according to Taiwan national team manager Chen Wei-Cheng, who has yet to decide which game Wang will pitch. Part of the Chinese Taipei national team’s secret arsenal includes Detroit Tigers lefty reliever Ni Fu-Te, the Taiwanese-born southpaw who posted an impressive 2.61 ERA as a rookie two years ago. Although Ni was confined to AAA ball this season, he did get the opportunity to shine at MLB Spring Training Camp, where he allowed only four hits and one earned run in his 10 innings of work.

San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy will manage the MLB All-Stars. Bochy’s coaching staff will be comprised of his current Giants bench coach Ron Wotus, Giants bullpen catcher Billy Hayes, Los Angeles Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt, Tampa Bay Rays hitting coach Derek Shelton along with Rays equipment and home clubhouse manager Chris Westmoreland. The MLB All-Stars include: pitchers Colin Balester, Trevor Bell, Bill Bray, Phil Coke, Ross Detwiler, Dillon Gee, Jeremy Guthrie, LaTroy Hawkins, Mark Melancon, Felipe Paulino, Ramon Ramirez, Rich Thompson and Jose Veras; catchers Drew Butera, Jeff Mathis, and Ronnie Paulino; infielders Erick Aybar, Robinson Cano, Michael Morse, Ryan Roberts, Pablo Sandoval, Danny Valencia and Ty Wigginton; outfielders Emilio Bonifacio, Curtis Granderson, Logan Morrison, Josh Reddick and Andres Torres.

Perhaps the biggest proponent of the upcoming Taiwan All-Star Series is the Washington Nationals Mascot, Screech. The furry white eagle was chosen as the mascot for the series and will accompany the MLB All-Stars to Taiwan. This week Screech was on the set of a short film shot in Washington, DC to promote the international baseball games. Screech dazzled the crowd–including the Ambassador of Taiwan, Jason Yuan–by speaking and whistling in Mandarin Chinese and eating with chopsticks. The short film of Taiwan culture, featuring Screech, can be viewed on the Washington Nationals official website (washingtonnationals.com) and the mascot’s blog (screech.mlblogs.com).