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BASEBALL/Dragons take CPBL season opener in front of big crowd at Taipei Dome

03/30/2024 09:54 PM
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Over 28,000 spectators pack the Taipei Arena to see the 2024 CPBL season opener Saturday. CNA photo March 30, 2024
Over 28,000 spectators pack the Taipei Arena to see the 2024 CPBL season opener Saturday. CNA photo March 30, 2024

Taipei, March 30 (CNA) The Wei Chuan Dragons fended off the Rakuten Monkeys 3-2 in Taipei on Saturday in the season opener of Taiwan's Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL) in front of a record crowd for a league game.

The 28,618 fans in attendance for the first-ever CPBL game at the Taipei Dome broke the previous league record set on Oct. 11, 2003, when 20,500 fans packed into Chengching Lake Baseball Stadium in Kaohsiung for Game 1 of the CPBL finals between the Sinon Bulls and Brother Elephants.

Several CPBL milestones were set by Dragons starter Hsu Jo-hsi (徐若熙) at the multifunctional indoor venue opened in November 2023, including throwing the first pitch, notching the first strikeout, and registering the first win.

The 2023 CPBL finals MVP fanned five and yielded only two hits and two walks over five scoreless innings before leaving the game with the defending champions holding a 3-0 lead.

The Monkeys managed to narrow the margin by scoring one run in the sixth and another in the eighth, but Chen Kuan-wei (陳冠偉) closed out the game for the Dragons by retiring the last four batters, including two by strikeout.

Dragons starting pitcher Hsu Jo-hsi. CNA photo March 30, 2024
Dragons starting pitcher Hsu Jo-hsi. CNA photo March 30, 2024

"I'm glad we could play at [a venue like] the Taipei Dome, and I'm very honored to have been the starting pitcher in the season opener," said the 23-year-old Hsu, who became the youngest pitcher in franchise history to start a season opener.

Named the MVP of the game, Hsu said he could not have achieved it without his teammates' defense, saying all of them were MVPs.

Though it was his first start at Taiwan's first indoor baseball stadium in the CPBL, Hsu had already pitched there twice during the Asian Baseball Championship in December 2023.

He started the tournament's opener against South Korea and the final against Japan, and in 12 total innings pitched, he struck out 18 and did not allow an earned run.

The first CPBL hit at the Taipei Dome was by Monkeys third baseman Liang Chia-jung (梁家榮), who doubled in the opening frame with two outs.

The 2023 CPBL batting leader tried to score the first run on a single by Liao Chien-fu (廖健富), only to be thrown out at home plate by Dragons center fielder Kuo Tien-hsin (郭天信).

Kuo's cannon arm meant that the first RBI at the indoor stadium came off the bat of teammate Chiang Shao-hung (蔣少宏), whose RBI single in the bottom of the second scored Kuo Yen-wen (郭嚴文) to give the Dragons an early lead.

Umpire Su Chien-wen (left). CNA photo March 30, 2024
Umpire Su Chien-wen (left). CNA photo March 30, 2024

Meanwhile, the CPBL's first regular-season game in 2024 was the last game in the long CPBL career of umpire Su Chien-wen (蘇建文).

The 60-year-old Su made his debut in the league on March 19, 1992, and he umpired his 3,318th and last game in the season opener on Saturday.

According to a Facebook post in Su's group, the league will hold a retirement ceremony for Su sometime this season.

The six CPBL teams will take turns hosting a total of 35 regular season games at the Taipei Dome this season, the CPBL said Friday, after the CTBC Brothers moved their Sept. 21-22 home games to the stadium.

(By Chao Yen-hsiang)

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