Taipei, June 21 (CNA) Taiwan will open the first ever International Baseball Federation (IBAF) Little League world championship against baseball hotbed Cuba, the Taipei City government said Tuesday.
The tournament, known formally as the 12U Baseball World Championship, will feature the national teams of players 12 and under from 15 countries and territories rather than school teams that compete in the prestigious Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania every year.
The tourney's opening game will pit Lithuania against Japan at the Youth Park Baseball Field on the morning of July 8.
Taiwan will then play Cuba at Tienmu Baseball Stadium -- usually reserved for professional games -- following the championship's opening ceremony.
The other participating countries and territories will be South Korea, Hong Kong, Brazil, Ecuador, Pakistan, Mexico, Venezuela, Italy, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Zimbabwe.
The 15 teams will be divided into two preliminary round groups, with the top two teams in each group after round-robin play entering the semifinals on July 16. The semifinal winners will play for the title a day later at Tienmu Stadium.
According to Tom Peng, president of the Chinese Taipei Amateur Baseball Association and a member of the IBAF Executive Committee, Taiwan has declined as a Little League baseball power since a team from Kaohsiung won the Little League World Series in 1996, but he hoped that would change in mid-July.
"The IBAF Little League world championship should serve as a golden opportunity for Taiwan to regain its glory in Little League baseball," Peng said.
The city government has revamped Tienmu Stadium to make it suitable for Little League competition. The distance between bases on Little League diamonds is only 60 feet, compared to 90 feet for the pros, and the pitching rubber is 46 feet from home plate, compared to 60 feet 6 inches on a pro field.
Baseball diamonds at Xinsheng Park in northern Taipei City will also be used as a competition venue or as a practice field, the city government said.
Admission for all games at the Youth Park and Xinsheng Park will be free, but tickets will be sold for the 25 of 57 tournament games played at Tienmu Stadium, according to the city government.
(By Johnson Sun and Deborah Kuo)