Sadaharu Oh hopes Taipei Dome can boost Taiwan’s baseball prospects – Focus Taiwan

Sadaharu Oh hopes Taipei Dome can boost Taiwan’s baseball prospects – Focus Taiwan

Taipei, Dec. 3 (CNA) Japanese baseball legend Sadaharu Oh expressed his high expectations for the future of the sport in Taiwan during the Taipei Dome opening ceremony on Saturday, ahead of the Asian Baseball Championship opener on Sunday.

Oh, a Taiwanese Japanese best known as the “global home-run king” following a crushing 868 homers in his pro career, was invited to Taiwan to throw the historic first pitch in Taiwan’s first indoor baseball stadium, which he called a watershed moment in Taiwan’s baseball history.

“The completion of the Taipei Dome is a milestone in Asia. It is as great as the ones in Tokyo and Fukuoka, maybe even better. I hope the [Taiwanese] players can have more confidence and fight for the glory of Taiwan and Asia. Team Taiwan must beat Team South Korea tomorrow,” Oh said.

Also at the ceremony were World Baseball Softball Confederation President Riccardo Fraccari, president of Taiwan’s Chinese Taipei Baseball Association (CTBA) Jeffrey Koo (辜仲諒), and Taipei Mayor Chiang Wan-an (蔣萬安).

Oh said he was honored and pleased to be attending the Taipei Dome opening ceremony, and he recalled how his legs were shaking when he attended the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Dome in 1988 — 35 years ago.

Tokyo Dome is the first of a total of five indoor baseball stadiums in Japan.

At a welcome banquet on Friday evening, Oh said having a dome could elevate the competitiveness of Taiwan’s baseball, and could also help draw more fansto watch games in person because of its comfortable environment and convenience.

He noted the size of the Taipei Dome and its high roof, noting that he now thinks more about the “fan experience” because his job is running a franchise, not playing and coaching.

The 83-year-old legend took a flight to Taiwan against his doctor’s advice due to his health issues.

Koo, who caught Oh’s first pitch, admitted that he had been worried about Oh’s condition, but that any concerns were dispelled as soon as he saw Oh walking faster than him at the airport.

Touting Oh as the “God of Baseball,” Koo pointed out that the home run king has never given up his Republic of China (Taiwan) nationality, even though he grew up and lived in Japan, saying that Oh is “more than an outstanding athlete, he is a great athlete who has contributed a lot to both Japan and Taiwan.”

Oh has left his mark on many of the historic moments in Taiwan baseball, be it ups and downs.

In 1990, for example, he took to the batter’s box for the ceremonial first pitch in the first-ever game in the Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL) inaugural season.

He did the same in 2015 for the inaugural WBSC Premier 12 Group A opener in Taichung and shook hands with Yang Tai-kang (楊岱鋼), who went on to smack a lead-off homer in the bottom of the first inning against the Netherlands.

When the CPBL reached its all-time low in 2009 following game-fixing cases, Oh said “I would feel heartbroken if the CPBL disappears.” He added that players must play hard and with integrity so that fans can enjoy the game and not feel betrayed.

Oh returned to Taiwan after the completion of the dome, a visit which CTBA secretary-general Lin Tsung-cheng (林宗成) revealed “could be his last trip overseas.”

Oh spoke about the success of Samurai Japan at the World Baseball Classic in March and said Japan had changed from looking up to the United States to being the stronger side, a situation which he hopes Taiwan can aim towards.

He added that Taiwan should strive to win an international tourney at least once and that victory would attract more quality players, which would put the team in a different mindset when it takes on opponents like South Korea and Japan.

“I hope Team Japan and Team Taiwan land on their feet together at the WBC in Los Angeles in three years,” Oh said.

(By Hsieh Ching-wen, Yang Chi-fang and Chao Yen-hsiang)

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