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June 24, 2017

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Taiwanese baseball fans grumble about low-key return for players

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Sports fans in Taiwan yesterday expressed deep disappointment over the failure to arrange a special return flight from Japan for the nation's baseball team.

Fans labeled the arrangement disrespectful for players and complained that fans were denied the opportunity to give the team a homecoming reception.

Taiwan's Chinese Taipei baseball team reached the final eight in the 2013 World Baseball Classic (WBC) on Saturday, rekindling enthusiasm for baseball in Taiwan, regardless of the fact that the team suffered defeats to rivals South Korea, Japan and Cuba.

Baseball fans sharply criticized the Chinese Taipei Baseball Association (CTBA) after learning that to return to Taiwan from Japan, team members had taken 13 different flights, landing in two separate airports over two days.

Many of them expressed anger for not being able to welcome all of the players in one ceremony.

Fans flooded President Ma Ying-jeou's Facebook page with complaints, prompting a presidential spokesman to issue a statement clarifying that the president had instructed officials at the Ministry of Education (MOE) and the CTBA to address the issue and provide timely explanations.

Some also vented their anger at China Airlines (CAL), one of Taiwan's major air carriers, blasting its inability to provide a special flight for all players to return home at the same time.

Both the MOE, which oversees athletic activities in Taiwan, and the CTBA quickly offered explanations, urging baseball fans to exercise reason and rationality.

They said one factor making the arranging of a special flight for all players and staff difficult was the uncertainty of match outcomes.

Lin Chung-cheng, secretary general of the CTBA, said another factor was that the flight schedules and plane tickets were selected individually by the players themselves.

Lin said the staff of his association had tried their best to meet the various demands of the players.

Some of the players decided to swap their business class tickets for lower-cost economy class seats so that they could save money and take their family members home on the same flights, he added.

He also noted that WBC games and transport services were arranged primarily by the United States' Major League Baseball.

All of the players returning to Taiwan yesterday said they were thrilled by the hundreds of screaming fans waiting for them at the airports.

They said they appreciated the strong support from fans, who showed a reinvigorated confidence in the team.

When asked if they were bothered by the separate flights, players said the important thing was that they had returned home safely.

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