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2013 a good year for local baseball, basketball

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The year 2013 will be seen as a turning point for two of Taiwan's most loved sports: baseball and basketball.

It was the year that Taiwan baseball once again caught the eyes of the nationals and the world when for the first time the national squad reached the final eight of the World Baseball Classic (WBC).

It was also in 2013 that the Taiwanese national basketball team twice beat rival mainland China in international events, marking a historic moment for local hoops development.

Taiwan baseball has for years been plagued with one after another game-fixing scandal, resulting in a serious loss of fan-support and lackluster ticket sales.

The average attendance rate for the 2012 season of local Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL) was less than 2,500 per game, a 20-percent drop compared to the previous year and the lowest point in four years.

Desperate for a fresh start, local baseball players took the 2013 WBC tournament as a perfect opportunity to rekindle the country's love of the national sport.

The WBC, an international baseball tournament sanctioned by the International Baseball Federation (IBAF) and created by Major League Baseball (MLB), is the highest-level international competition of baseball after the International Olympic Committee voted in 2005 to remove the sport from the Olympic program following the 2008 Beijing Games.

Taiwan failed to advance to the final eight in previous two editions of the WBC held in 2006 and 2009.

The 2013 WBC roster was boosted with two of the biggest names of Taiwan baseball, former New York Yankees ace Chien-Ming Wang (王建民) and former Los Angeles Dodgers setup man Kuo Hong-chih (郭泓志).

The team was also joined by other overseas players competing in the Japan and U.S. minor leagues and backboned by 16 CPBL players.

Though the team was not as glamorous as other teams that had many active MLB players, the nation's excellent performance in Taichung once again proved to the world that the national team from the small island country is as good as other baseball powerhouses around the globe thanks to their phenomenal team spirit.

On March 5, 2013, a 20,000-strong crowd at Taichung Intercontinental Stadium, along with millions of Taiwanese in front of televisions around the island, witnessed a historic moment in the nation's baseball history.

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A group of Taiwanese professional baseball players perform warm-up exercises during spring training for the upcoming baseball season, in Kaohsiung. (CNA)

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