Former MLB superstar Manny Ramirez may help revitalize our professional baseball league
There can be little doubt that baseball is Taiwan's favorite sport. Despite this fact, the sport has endured some tough times in Taiwan in recent years. Following poor performances by Taiwan at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2009 World Baseball Classic, many people lost confidence in the national team. Interest in Taiwan's professional baseball league, the Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL), had also been dwindling due to a number of betting and match-fixing scandals that shocked and disgusted many fans.
Now this dark period for Taiwanese baseball may have come to an end. Taiwan's national team captured the country's imagination again this month when it won a berth in the final eight of the World Baseball Classic. Although Taiwan's team was sent home after suffering two losses in the second round in Tokyo, local supporters still treated the players as national heroes. And now the CPBL has gotten a major boost that seems set to revitalize Taiwan's professional league.
On March 12, former Major League Baseball (MLB) star Manny Ramirez signed up to play for the EDA Rhinos, a franchise based in the southern port city of Kaohsiung. The Rhinos, with which Ramirez has a one-year contract, will reportedly pay him between NT$750,000 and NT$800,000 a month.
There is no doubt that Ramirez is the biggest star ever to play in Taiwan's domestic league, and his appearance in the CPBL's 2013 baseball season is expected to help boost attendance at games as well as TV viewership.
During his first day in Taiwan, Ramirez drew excited crowds wherever he went, with fans asking for his autograph and for pictures to be taken with the star. He said he was honored to play in Taiwan, expressed his appreciation for the fans, and said he wanted to taste all of Taiwan's delicacies.
According to media reports, Ramirez left with a good impression of Taiwan after playing an exhibition game here with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2010. While signing up to play in the CPBL, Ramirez said he wanted to prove that Taiwan has an environment suitable for baseball and is a good place to play the sport. He also noted that he will play with the goal of helping young players and giving back to the sport.
At his unveiling, while sporting a new jersey bearing No. 99 and his trademark long braided hairdo, the 40-year-old slugger added that he wanted to play in Asia and Taiwan in order to begin a new stage in his career.