2009 was a bad year for baseball in Taiwan. The year began with Taiwan getting slammed 9-0 by South Korea in the Asia qualification games for the World Baseball Classic (WBC). Things got worse when Taiwan were beat by their arch rival China (appearing in the WBC for the first time) in a game in the Tokyo Dome. Baseball, is the national sport in Taiwan, and the country seemed to regain some pride when they placed 2nd in the Little League World Series this year. However, things in the professional game has become worse and worse. Reuters reports that Taiwan has 102 cases of illegal baseball betting in 2008, and the professional league (named the Chinese Professional Baseball League) has seen a 45% decline in reported attendance over the last five years. The league seems on the verge of collapse, after having gone from 6 teams in 2008 to 4 teams in 2009.
With the national sport dying, Taiwanese President Ma Ying-Jeou (picture to the right) has stepped in to do something. It was announced that the government will be injecting $60 million (U.S.) into the professional league, in the hopes of bringing better talent into the game, as well as provide incentives for youth to continue to play the game. So President Ma is hoping to turn things around, with what is basically a giant subsidy for professional baseball in his country. It is also a reaction to protests which occurred in November, when 800 baseball fans took to the streets of the capital city of Taipei to protest the corruption in professional baseball in the league. President Ma took the protests so seriously, that he has not only given $60 million for the four year program, but has also held a National Baseball Conference, as well as assembled a task force with cabinet members to help bring back baseball’s popularity in the country.