1) The Fans: Robotic or Human
When the Chinese Professional Baseball League began on April 11th, they were the only professional sports league in the world who were competing. Due to the coronavirus, they were without fans for roughly an entire month. In an earlier post, I discussed that since fans have been restricted from attending games, the idea of a home-field advantage may not have the same impact. With having no fans, a home team may find it challenging to gain momentum because their fan base is unable to support them. Home-field advantage was likely negated during the previous month of the season, but there is hope that the absence will have little impact on the season as a whole. While teams were without fans for a month, they are now officially allowed in the ballpark as of May 8th. The league set a cap on the number of fans in attendance at 1,000. Even though the league average in attendance per game in 2019 was 5,826, having fans at all is a massive step in the right direction. The forecast of the Chinese Professional Baseball League is for fans to attend games without any restrictions.
2) Live sports!
Sports fans across the world are eager to watch competitive sports at all costs. Chinese Professional Baseball League games are live at 5:00 a.m. Eastern Time, but that isn’t preventing the sports world from tuning in. While the league is not as well-known as other baseball leagues around the world, this is the perfect opportunity for the CPBL to gain exposure for the league, which they are actively doing. Despite the considerable drop in the level of play from MLB standards, it is nevertheless compelling, and the league has been doing a noble job of doing everything in their power to keep it as engaging as possible. From the Rakuten Monkeys introducing robot mannequins, to the league streaming games online along with English commentators, the CPBL is becoming widespread. The hope of the Chinese Professional Baseball League is for the current trend to continue.
3) Action, Action and more Action!
Despite Major League Baseball teams averaging 1.39 home runs per game, versus 1.07 for teams of the CPBL, the CPBL takes the top spot for runs scored and batting average per game. Major League Baseball averages 9.66 runs per game, whereas the CPBL averages 10.94 runs per game. The most significant difference of all is the separation in batting averages between the two leagues. The median batting average in MLB is just .248, but in the CPBL, the overall league batting average is .288. These statistics share the notion that players are putting the ball in play more frequently than MLB players, which maintains the flow of the game and accommodates precisely what fans want to witness.
4) The Rivalries
Since there are currently only four teams in the Chinese Professional Baseball League (with a 5th team, the Wei Chuan Dragons set to join in 2021), each side faces each other 40 times per season. When you see an opponent so frequently, rivalries get heated and could escalate. A few weeks ago, benches were cleared in a game between the Fubon Guardians and Rakuten Monkeys. With 40 games played against each team, hitters and pitchers start to understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses. While teams are competing against each other for winning the game at hand, batters and pitchers are having their side battles as well.
5) The Cheerleaders
The use of cheerleaders plays a considerable role in the appeal of CPBL games. While the fundamental purpose of the introduction of cheerleaders was to engage fans before the game to build hype, they have become indispensable to the game to the point where people attend games just to see the cheerleaders. The introduction of cheerleaders in the CPBL has increased the familiarity of the league, including the prevalence of each team. There has been a lot of awareness from the public surrounding the cheerleaders, to the point where some of them are more popular than a majority of the players.
6) The Atmosphere
Fans of the Chinese Professional Baseball League are like anyone else. The arena is rocking from before the first pitch until the end of the game. With the concept of cheerleaders as just discussed, to the use of props such as drums and bass instruments, to vuvuzelas, the atmosphere of a CPBL game is anything but ordinary. When you attend an MLB game, good luck even bringing your water bottle into the stadium. At a CPBL game, you are encouraged to bring yourself a cooler of pretty much any food and beverage you want. Fans are either dancing the entire game or kept on the edge of their seat as no lead is ever secure in this league.
7) The Amazing Response to Coronavirus from CPBL
With the realization of the pandemic, Taiwan closed its borders and made it their priority to not be short on medical supplies. In addition, the use of masks in Taiwan on a daily basis is not unusual because of air quality concerns, so there were no issues with the procedure of wearing masks. While the league was required to present a prevention plan to the government to get the season underway, there were no hiccups on that front. The media who are in attendance of games are also required to wear masks and are unable to visit either the clubhouse or dugout. To conduct interviews, the league created a designated area where the media can speak with players from a distance using different methods than usual.