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Feature report 2007 | The Glory of Taiwan-Baseball

 

 

I. Preface

Some people might think that baseball originated from the popular sport of cricket, from the U.K., but it is actually hard to judge on the exact year of its appearance and exact person for such invention. In the U.S.A, the baseball industry has been existed for almost a hundred years. Every year, industries related to baseball generate billions of production values in U.S. dollars. For example, the host ticket packages for New York Yankees costs about a thousand dollars per package and they are often sold out before the baseball season. Once the T-shirt with cost of 5 dollars is printed with the name of certain star player in the Yankees, the price can go several times higher. Baseball has brought stores with unlimited opportunities and hence it becomes a sports industry with extreme attraction. After popularization of baseball, all the balls, bats, sports wear, sports gloves, baseball caps and helmets become popular goods, which is why baseball can be continuously developed and welcomed in U.S.A. and Japan.


Recently, the Taiwanese baseball player, Chien-Ming Wang, has continuously achieved excellent performance on the field of Major League Baseball (MLB) and this has motivated the "fever of baseball product" that is unseen in Taiwan for very a long time, and even help develop the research on "baseball economics". At present, the economic benefit of intensive product sale induced by popularity of Chien-Ming Wang is hard to be evaluated since there is no formal example to refer to. According to business owners' estimation, however, the economic benefit generated by Chien-Ming Wang has reached at least 200 million dollars. Catching the "Hot Flash of Chien-Ming Wang", domestic business owners have estimated the "scary" money making capacity of Chien-Ming Wang from aspect on product sale, spokesman, TV commercials, tourist activity and goods with autograph; one owner of product sale thinks that the economic influence of Chien-Ming Wang is very extensive and the commercial tentacles have extended into various fields with unlimited economical benefits. The other economical benefits of Chien-Ming Wang include "One U.S. dollar note", "Chien-Ming Wang's player card", "Memorial DVD for first entry into the League", book of "Full records of glory for Chien-Ming Wang", "Package tour of watching Chien-Ming Wang play" and the "Easy card" that caused buying rush recently. MLB offers Chien-Ming Wang with popularity and back in Taiwan, the popularity pays out the enormous amount of commercial activities that contribute to blooming economy of Taiwan. This has derived the phenomena such as "value of baseball production", "baseball market", "baseball economy" and "economic benefit of baseball", which provide numerous popular topics for various industries in Taiwan to gossip about.


According to survey from E-ICP (Eastern Integrated Consumer Profile) of Eastern Online for analysis on 2001~2005 data, 58.9% of the public in 2002 has no habit of exercise and such percentage rises every year. Over the recent years, it even reached 72%. From this, it is known that the commercial opportunity in sport market is unlimited. However, in the multiple choice of usual sports for the public, basketball is ranks as first place at 9.3%, swimming is the second at 8.4% and baseball only comes to the ninth position at 1.3%.

Percentage of the public not exercising during normal days
Data source: E-ICP over the years All samples over the years is 1344 (multiple choices)

 

Data source: E-ICP of 2006

 

II. Description on Baseball Equipments
The relevant equipments used in baseball include ball, bat, glove, T-shirt, helmet, shoes, etc. The following section will briefly describe the compulsory tools in baseball, namely the ball, bat and glove:

1.Ball:
This can be divided into hard baseball, standardized hard baseball and soft baseball. At present, the baseball in countries worldwide and Taiwan is based on hard baseball; the standardized hard baseball and soft baseball often appear at the level of youth baseball, senior baseball and junior baseball.

  1. Hard baseball: This is the so-called "Red-line" with greatest feature of 108 stitches on surface of the ball. The cork, rubber or similar material is used for the seat, which is wound with strings to saw the white horse skin or bull skin with the ball seat. The weight must not be less than 5 ounce or greater than 5.25 ounce (i.e. 141.8 grams ~ 148.8 grams). The circumference must not be less than 9 inches or greater than 9.25 inches (i.e. 22.9 cm ~ 23.5 cm). The hard baseball is most frequently used at the moment and each important international or league play uses it.
  2. Standardized hard baseball: This is the "H ball" in soft base ball and it is seldom used at present. The standardized hard baseball is made from rubber and the standard specification is diameter of 71.5~72.5 mm, weight of 140.7~144.3 grams and bounce force of 50.0~ 70.0 cm. At present, such ball only appears in relevant play of youth baseball and senior baseball occasionally.
  3. Soft baseball: This is the so-called "Hollow ball" with greatest feature of its hollow center. Such ball is seldom used at present and it only appears in relevant plays of few junior baseballs. The soft baseball is made from rubber and divided into type H, A, B, C and D. The type H is a hollow ball; type A is the common soft ball with hollow center, where type B, C and D are soft balls with hollow center specifically used by junior baseball. The history of soft baseball in Taiwan is actually very long, because almost all junior baseball teams use soft baseball for competition before Taiwan started to participate the William Porter Junior Baseball Competition. Even the famous Hong-Ye junior baseball team at early stage also used soft baseball.

2. Bat:
This can be divided into wooden bat, aluminum bat and composite bat. According to requirement of baseball rules, the bat must be smoothly circular; diameter of the thickest portion must not exceed 2.75 inches (7 cm) and the length must not exceed 42 inches (106.7 cm). Nowadays, most bats are made with aluminum and over recent years, the bats are made with glass or carbon fibers to reduce weight and increase swing speed.

 

Louisville Slugger wood bats

(from http://www.slugger.com/baseball/wood.html)

  1. Wooden bat: The common material is mainly based on white poplar wood and maple wood. The difference between wooden bat and composite bat is that the former must be cut with raw wood and cannot be processed with artificial compression; in other words, the bat is part of the original tree, hence natural grain often appears on the wooden bat. The greatest difference between wooden bat and aluminum bat is that the former breaks easily due to less flexibility. The hitting point must be grasped thoroughly during swing, so the power strength of swing can be developed. In view of this, the swing with wooden bat focuses on excellent swing skill instead of brute strength. The history of using wooden bat is very long and wooden bat has existed since almost the development of baseball.
  2. Aluminum bat: Metal is used for production and "aluminum" is one of the most important materials. Since "aluminum" is the type of metal with less hardness, the bat surely cannot be made with pure "aluminum", and it is often based on composition of alloys. Due to advanced research on material of aluminum bat, the bat with "aluminum", "copper" and "magnesium" has become the major trend nowadays. The greatest advantage for aluminum bat is the excellent flexibility that does not break the bat at all, where the ball can be stroked high and far with sufficient strength during swing. The history of using aluminum bat only starts since approximately since 1970; before that, almost the entire baseball industry uses wooden bat.

 

Louisville Slugger Aluminum/Composite bats
(from http://www.slugger.com/baseball/aluminum.html)

  1. Composite bat: The bat is made by compressing material of white poplar wood, maple wood and bamboo plate, which is also referred as "compressed bat", "combined bat" and even "bamboo bat". Since the composite bat integrated advantages of wooden bat and aluminum bat, it provides better flexibility; it does not break easily and the strength of swing is not less then the aluminum bat. Therefore, such bat is normally not allowed in common circumstances of official international competition. However, since the International BAseball Federation (IBAF) has been actively promote for policy of only using wooden bat at international competition, the composite bat has been treated as transition bat before success of such policy, where the composite bat is allowed for three gardes of baseball competition in Taiwan.

3. Baseball glove:
The baseball glove is made with skin, with available materials including bull skin, deer skin and kangaroo skin. Among them, bull skins are more commonly seen and used and the gloves are classified according to skin material used in accordance with level of glove. The categories basically contain the following types.
KAZUMA sports Custom Pro Deluxe series & Custom Pro series
(from http://www.kazumasports.com/products.htm)

(1) A-class bull skin: This is the bull skin of special selection. It features with extreme durability, ease of shaping and difficulty of deformation; but it takes 1 year and 10 month to obtain skin from grown bull.
(2) Hard bull skin: This is made by special process on A-class bull skin, which enhances the toughness. The feeling of touch when using it is similar to deer skin and the quality can compete with calf skin, which is the skin of recent development.
(3) Calf skin: The quality is similar to baby skin. It is thin, tough, light, small in capillary and loud in catching. The skin normally adopts calves at 9 months old.
(4) Highly blasted bull skin: This is the new skin newly developed over recent years with greater hardness and better durability.
(5) High-class bull skin: This is the second grade skin after selection of A-class bull skin and it is the most fundamental skin. Inside and outside of the entire glove is bull skin that gives well period of expiration and durability, as well as excellent lifetime.
(6) Special skin: This is the type of special bull skin with excellent suction (貊) but very few quantity of production.
(7) NSL skin: This is the bull skin of special selected and exported to Japan. Many high-class gloves in Japan are made with the same skin but very little in quantity.


There are also some gloves made with artificial skin or synthesized skin. Due to the rapid advance of technology nowadays, the material of glove also differs along with usage, player and environment. The lining within the baseball glove is divided into bull skin lining and deer skin lining. The cost of deer skin lining is higher for its fine quality and comfort of use. Due to the smaller capillary of deer skin lining that absorbs water easily, such glove is not recommended to people with hand sweat problems.

The glove used at each defensive position also differs from each other, which includes the glove for pitcher, catcher, first baseman, second baseman, third baseman, short stop and outfielder. The size, thickness, shape of ball stop, depth and even material for the gloves are all different; therefore, each glove used by the player in an official baseball competition has different function.


III. Conclusion
Baseball is a civilian and public sport and it seems to form certain type of local sport culture in Taiwan. Based on this, the professional baseball was capable of attracting huge number of spectators during initial establishment. Since the announcement of removing order of martial law in 1988, the profession baseball in Taiwan has been developed actively. The Chinese Professional Baseball League has been established since 1989 and people that watch baseball competition also tend to increase during such period. With the fact that Taiwanese baseball has gradually earned its position on the international field through various world-class competition, as well as glorious performance by Jin-Feng Chen, Chien-Ming Wang, Hong-Chih Kuo, Jin-Long Hu, Yong-Chih Chen and Chien-Ming Chiang in professional baseball league in U.S.A. and Japan, it has established tremendous advantages for Taiwan in the activity of baseball sport. In addition, it will motivate for improvement of domestic industry of baseball utilities.

However, professional baseball is basically a behavior of business, thus the maintenance on integrity and social image of professional baseball will be the key issues for operation and development of professional baseball. The profession baseball group in U.S.A. and Japan administrate all departments and the team with format of commercial operation, where the government provides passive assistance and does not involve with disputes between each league and team. Observing from the overall status of operation and development, they are based on local acknowledgement and this has creates positive influence to stability of operating the professional baseball. At the same time, the professional baseball combines with public recreation and becomes part of the living culture for the public.

In the aspect of marking, the advance countries have been promoting sport marketing for years and in Taiwan, the most popular sports developed are baseball and basketball. Since the sport marketing provides media effect, there are many sports that can be developed. Furthermore, sport itself can generate many products, thus it is huge industry, which can even be treated as key development and listed together with tourism industry.

Comparison of popularity between baseball and basketball at each age interval
Watch TV broadcast of baseball Watch live baseball competition Play baseball often
Watch TV broadcast of basketball Watch live basketball competition Play basketball often