20,000 fans bid farewell to Lamigo Monkeys in Taoyuan

Taipei-A full house of 20,810 baseball fans bid farewell Saturday to the Lamigo Monkeys at the team's Taoyuan home stadium as the seven-time local pro-league champions played their last game before its new Japanese owner changes the team's name next year.

The exhibition game was followed by a farewell event in which Monkey's Chairman Liu Pao-yu (???) and Liu's son, the Monkeys' General Manager Justin Liu (???), together with all members of the team, said goodbye to their fans.

The father and son expressed gratitude for the support of the fans over the past 16 years, which they said is the main reason they continued to run the team, despite the huge costs involved.

Liu Pao-yu said he and his son had been considering selling the team for a very long time but due to their love for baseball and the strong fan support, they decided to hang in there for nearly two decades until eventually announcing in July that they were putting the team up for sale.

"There are no regrets, as we are really satisfied with how we have run the team, but all good things must come to an end," he said.

The Taoyuan-based team, run by the La New International Corp., sold all of its shares in the team to Japan-based e-commerce giant Rakuten Sept. 16.

Rakuten is now scheduled to officially enter Taiwan's Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL) next year, making the company the first foreign company to own a CPBL team since its founding in 1990.

Although the company will continue to run the team from its Taoyuan base, Rakuten has said it will change the team's name, which will be announced later.

Justin Liu previously disclosed that over the past 16 years, La New has spent NT$100 million (US$3.20 million) per year on the team, a huge financial outlay for a relatively small company.

In contrast, the owners of the four other CPBL teams are some of the biggest companies in Taiwan.

"Time is up for small- and medium-sized companies like us in running professional baseball teams," Justin Liu said during Saturday's event.

La New International Corp. bought the First Financial Holdings Agan in late 2003 before renaming the team the La New Bears and competing in the CPBL from 2004.

The team played their home games at Chengcing Lake Baseball Field in Kaohsiung from 2004 to 2010. In the 2011 season, their home stadium was moved to the Taoyuan International Baseball Stadium when the name was changed to the Lamigo Monkeys.

Known for the successful management of its home stadium in Taoyuan, the Monkeys is the most popular team in the CPBL, with the highest average attendance last year -- more than 6,000 per game.

The team won its seventh CPBL championship earlier this month, beating the CTBC Brothers 4-1 in a best-of-seven Taiwan Series. It was also the team's third consecutive CPBL championship.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel