Taiwan ready for uphill WBC battle
By Joseph Yeh, The China PostTAIPEI, Taiwan -- As most people are enjoying their Chinese New Year break with their families, a group of local baseball players have given up their vacations to keep up their training.
February 16, 2013, 12:04 am TWN
These aren't just a bunch of wannabes; these are members of Taiwan's national team.
The players are in the final stages of preparation for the upcoming battles at the world's highest-level international baseball competition, the World Baseball Classic (WBC).
The WBC's first-round matches are expected to begin in less than a month in four different parts of the world: Fukuoka, Japan; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Phoenix, Arizona; and Taichung, right here in Taiwan.
Taiwan will face South Korea, Australia and the Netherlands on their home turf starting from March 2.
The national squad's manager, Hsieh Chang-heng (謝長亨), has high hopes for his team, setting a goal of finishing in the final eight of the tournament.
“I am hoping that we can play as a team and finish strong in the tournament, similar to what we had achieved in the WBC qualifiers,” Hsieh said.
At the WBC qualifying round held in November last year, the team had three landslide victories, advancing to the official WBC matchups in March.
Wang, Kuo Return
Hsieh has all the reason he needs to be confident about the squad.
For a country that has produced several world-class baseball players, Taiwan is not without help in the upcoming WBC matches.
Two of the nation's best-known players — former Washington Nationals starter Chien-Ming Wang (王建民) and ex-Los Angeles Dodgers setup man Hong-Chih Kuo (郭泓志) — are on Taiwan's roster.
This will mark the first time Wang has represented his country at the WBC.
The former New York Yankees ace declined to join the squad twice, first in 2006 and later in 2009.
For Kuo, this will be the second time he has played under the nation's flag in the WBC. He was a member of the team in 2006.
In addition to the pair of Major League hurlers, Che-Hsuan Lin (林哲瑄), former Boston Red Sox member and Houston Astros outfielder, is also on the list.
Some other big names on the roster are Fukuoda Softbank Hawks pitcher Yang Yao-hsun (陽耀勳), and Chen Hung-wen (陳鴻文), who used to play for the Chicago Cubs' minor league team.
Rising 18-year-old pitcher Tseng Ren-ho (曾仁和), who delivered fastballs up to 90 miles per hour in his latest outings, is another notable player for Team Taiwan.
The only active Taiwanese Major League pitcher, Wei-Yin Chen (陳偉殷), of the Baltimore Orioles, however, is not on the team.
Chen declined an invitation to join the team, saying that he intends to spend time with his newborn son while preparing for the next season.