Hard-core Red Sox Fan Works to Rekindle Taiwan’s Love of The Game

(From chinapost.com.tw)

Richard Wang (王雲慶) is a hard-core baseball fan.He grew up as a staunch fan of Taiwan’s professional Mercuries Tigers (三商虎) of the local Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL) before the team’s disbandment in 1999.

He later became a die-hard Boston Red Sox fan when he studied overseas in the American city. Because of his strong support for the team, he has since been known by his English nickname, “Boston.”

Wang’s decades-long passion for the sport was not only a pastime for the 40-year-old man. He has been so devoted to the sport of bats-and-balls that ultimately he entered into the professional baseball business in Taiwan.

Having worked in the CPBL for 12 years now, Wang, director for CPBL’s Strategic Planning & International Affairs, is responsible for promoting the league internationally; a task that ultimately gives him a chance to organize some major international baseball events locally.

His latest achievement was the 2011 Asia Series, an annul competition featuring Asia’s top professional baseball teams. Under Wang and his team’s careful planning, the CPBL successfully held the annual series last November in Taiwan, which was the first time in the event’ s five-year history that the tournament was held outside Japan, the series’ initiator.

The story of Wang, the fan-turned-event planner, would be considered a dream come true for any baseball lover. But fulfilling the dream was not as easy as one might imagine.

Hard-core Red Sox Fan

Speaking to The China Post recently at the CPBL Taipei office, Wang said his first encounter with professional baseball was when he joined the Tigers’ fan club at the debut CPBL season in 1990 as a high school student.

After graduation, Wang’s parents decided to send him to the United States to study interior design before he later changed his major to architecture.

During his days in Boston, Wang was living near Fenway Park, home to the Red Sox, during which he gradually became a strong supporter of the team.

It was also during his overseas study that he started to make regular contributions to Taiwan’s baseball magazines, writing introductions on Major League Baseball (MLB) to local fans when the world’s top-notch league was still largely unknown among Taiwanese.

After studying and working in the United States for a decade, Wang decided to come back to Taiwan in 2000 before he was invited to join the CPBL management team because of his English-language skills and familiarity with the MLB.

The timing of his arrival in the CPBL was during the league’s lowest point, when average attendance at most games was only around 1,000 following several major game-throwing scandals.

But Wang said he had the support of his family because they knew it was a dream job for a baseball fan like him. He started as a member of a promotion team both locally and internationally and over the years worked in almost every position in league management.

Helping CPBL Become a Better League

Over the past 12 years in the CPBL, Wang has witnessed the league’s revival following the 2001 Baseball World Cup that rekindled the fervor of fans. He stuck by the league as it continued to be haunted by one scandal after another in 2005, 2008 and 2009.

Though somewhat disappointed with the on-and-off dishonors, Wang said as a member in the CPBL management, he could not just give up on the league and walk away.

“There is always hope despite numerous disappointments,” he said.

To improve the league and better safeguard players’ rights, Wang has taken part in drafting some fundamental changes to the league over the past years, including the introduction of a free-agent system and setting up a minimum wage for players.

Starting this season, the league also launched a full-scale minor league system under Wang’s suggestion.

All these newly launched efforts were done in the hope of breaking away from old problems and embracing new fans. Amid these new measures, the pro league does have another sign of revival; the attendance rate for the past season has risen to around 3,000 from 2,000 per game in the previous season.

But as pointed out by Wang, the most important things that could continue to push the CPBL in the right direction lies not just on simply amending the system, but on helping the players themselves.

“Players should take their job seriously and show more respect to the game, to themselves and to the fans,” he noted.

Players must respect their jobs and not throw games to get fans to return to the baseball diamond, he said.

After the recent experience learned after holding the Asia Series and other international events in Taiwan, Wang said it is of primary importance by taking every part of the game serious so that others will take the Taiwanese league and its players more serious as well.

Like idiom “the devil is in the details” suggests, he said Taiwan has so much room for improvement in making a better baseball environment, he added.

Passion the Key to Work in Baseball

Looking forward to the future, Wang said the league is set to host a winter league in central and southern Taiwan at the end of this year, which is expected to be joined by Japanese and South Korean teams to further globalize the sport.

“We are also currently drafting to build spring training complex in southern Taiwan,” Wang said. Once completed, other Asian pro teams could visit the island during offseason for training, which could further enhance exchanges and boost local tourism, he added.

Starting as a fan but now an integral part of the CPBL management, Wang said those who want to join the league should first sharpen their language skills and sports management knowledge.

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