Federation Focus: Chinese Taipei Baseball Association is an international hub

Federation Focus: Chinese Taipei Baseball Association is an international hub
Chinese Taipei has hit its highest-ever position at No. 2 in the WBSC Baseball World Rankings. CTBA went international after the legendary accomplishment of the Hongye school team in 1968, which is depicted on the NTD 500 banknote. It started a success story.

The Chinese Taipei Baseball Association (CTBA) is an international hub of the sport and baseball is the top spectator sport in Taiwan. This year alone, CTBA is set to host world-level events like the WBSC Congress, the U-12 Baseball World Cup, the U-23 Baseball World Cup and the U-12 Softball World Cup. The sixth episode of the WBSC's 2022 Federation Focus series looks deeper at the organization that is a major supporter of the international game.

“Over the years, CTBA has grown into one of baseball’s true leaders, both in competing in and hosting international events,” WBSC President Riccardo Fraccari said upon CTBA's winning the WBSC Federation of the Year in 2019. “The remarkable results in 2019 and being named Federation of the Year are a reflection of the excellent work CTBA is doing to contribute to baseball’s worldwide growth while keeping our sport number one in Taiwan.”

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CTBA President Jeffrey Koo Jr. told the WBSC: "When I just took the office in 2018, we were immediately met with the challenges to assemble the national team for Jakarta Palembang Asian Games. As I believe that both CTBA and the Chinese Professional Baseball League are two most important pillars in Taiwan baseball, and with the support from the Sports Administration, I was able to precipitate the cooperation for both organizations to field a team for the Asian Games. The team defeated the Korea team full of All-Star Players from KBO, and it was our first victory over Korea in 12 years."

CTBA and CPBL are the two pillars of baseball in Taiwan, according to Koo. "The close cooperation between CPBL and CTBA will benefit the development of the industry and improvement of the strength," said Koo. "With the two pillars of Taiwan baseball united in harmony, there will be more businesses and talents attracted to the industry."

He also wants to expand the baseball market in Taiwan, while promoting baseball events and collaborations with mainland China, Japan, and Korea: "I also want to invite them to collaborate with the resources and influence of CTBA to promote the formation of an 'Asian Major League'”.

Koo confirms CTBA will continue to be an integral part and leader in supporting and developing the international game. "In the future, I will continue to strengthen the influence of Chinese Taipei in WBSC and the Baseball Federation of Asia to keep contributing to the world of baseball while making sure that we are the core member of this baseball world family."

CTBA: How it Started

Japanese Colonial Administrators introduced baseball on the island of Formosa in 1895. Around 1920, local people were allowed to play with Japanese expatriates.

The Japanese rule ended with the second world war. The birth of CTBA dates to 1949. Interest in baseball revived during the 1950s, mainly as a local activity. By the 1960s, baseball featured in many school programmes, including the Hongye elementary school in the island's centre.

Most of the students were indigenous (or aboriginal) children. The school was struggling to commit these kids to a daily routine. In 1963, the secretary of the Township suggested trying with a baseball team. Against all odds, Hongye won the 1968 national school championship and earned the right to play against a Japanese All-Star from the Kansai area named Wakayama. Hongye defeated Wakayama 7-0 in front of a reported 20,000-fan crowd. Famed TV commentator Fu Ta Jen went live for 13 consecutive hours. Following the accomplishment, the Hongye school team toured the south of the islands attracting over 100,000 fans.

Another success story began in 1972 when CTBA participated in the Amateur World Series (later to become the Baseball World Cup) in Nicaragua. Chinese Taipei finished eighth.

One of CTBA's first international successes arrived in 1983 when Chinese Taipei won the U-18 Baseball World Cup.

In 1984, Chinese Taipei impacted the world of baseball, finishing third in the demonstration tournament at the Los Angeles Olympics and earning a silver medal at the Baseball World Cup in Cuba.

After two Baseball World Cup bronze medals (1986, 1988), Chinese Taipei earned a silver medal at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

CTBA hosted the first high-profile international event in 2001. For the first time, the Baseball World Cup allowed the participation of professional players. Chinese Taipei defeated Japan in front of a raucous crowd to earn a bronze medal.

In 2011, CTBA hosted the inaugural U-12 Baseball World Cup and has since hosted every edition of the elite youth tournament. In 2019, Tainan Asia-Pacific Stadium was built and dedicated to the age group.

Chinese Taipei won the U-18 Baseball World Cup 2019, defeating four-time defending champions USA in the final in Gijang, Korea.

Koo says 2019 was CTBA's best year on record: "We won the WBSC U-12 and U-18 titles, and defeated Japan and Korea in the Asian Baseball Championship en route to winning the first title in 18 years. At the same time, [Taiwan-based teams] also brought back three championship trophies from PONY to make it the best season in CTBA history with a total of six titles."

CTBA oversees a strong youth baseball movement, with approximately 188 U-12, 130 U-15 and 46 U-18 teams participating in school programmes all over the island. The Chinese Taipei Baseball Championships feature all-star teams representing the different cities. The winning managers earn the right to select the team representing Chinese Taipei in collaboration with the CTBA selection committee.

The Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL) was born in October 1989 and played a four-team inaugural season in 1990. The CPBL is currently a five-team league. A new franchise owned by the Taiwan Steel Group will start operating at the minor league level in 2023 and become the sixth CPBL club in 2024.