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New tournament a platform for students' baseball dreams

On Dec. 1, the Black Panther High School Baseball Tournament (黑豹旗全國高中棒球大賽) made its debut at Taipei's Tianmu Baseball Stadium.

Featuring hundreds of players from 51 high school teams across the country, the tournament, which will last over a month, is expected to serve as a platform for Taiwanese youth to work toward fulfilling their baseball dreams.

It could also help cultivate more baseball talents which can succeed Major Leaguers Chien-Ming Wang (王建民) or Wei-Yin Chen (陳偉殷).

Dozens of similar high school baseball tournaments are already held in Taiwan every year. What makes the Black Panther competition special?

First of all, the event adopts a single-elimination format, meaning players must do their best in every game — one loss means the team will have to try again next year.

The event organization said it copied the event's format from Japan's National High School Baseball Championship.

Better known as “Koshien” (甲子園棒球賽), the championship is Japan's longest-running nationwide high school baseball tournament and enjoys widespread popularity, arguably equal to or greater than that accorded to professional baseball.

The tournament has literally become a national symbol and tradition; it is the ultimate honor for high school baseball players in Japan to be able to compete at Koshien.

The widespread success of Koshien, and the tens of thousands of talented rising starts it has cultivated, is one of the main reasons behind the thriving state of Japanese baseball and helps make the country an international baseball powerhouse.

In the hope of learning from the success of Koshien, Taiwanese baseball authorities, before the establishment of the Black Panther tournament, previously organized a short-lived national high school tournament in the same single-elimination format as Koshien.

The Golden Dragon Junior Baseball Championship (金龍旗青棒賽) was launched in 1995. The high school tourney was once a platform on which young baseballers could chase their baseball dreams.

At its peak, the annual event included more than 100 baseball teams from across the island. It also fostered many of Taiwan's best baseball players, some of whom later competed in Major League Baseball, among them Chien-Ming Wang and Hong-Chih Kuo (郭泓志). Due to a limited budget, the annual event was canceled after 2003.

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