Japanese owners rename Taiwan's Taoyuan baseball team Rakuten Monkeys

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(CNA photo)

Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten on Tuesday announced "Rakuten Monkeys" as the new name of the Lamigo Monkeys, a Taiwanese professional baseball team, three months after acquiring the Taoyuan-based team from La New International Corp.

Speaking at a press event in Taipei, Hiroshi Mikitani, founder, chairman and CEO of Rakuten, said he was "thrilled" to unveil the new team name and is ready to bring his group's experience of professional baseball in Japan to Taiwan.

"Rakuten's strong commitment to sports partnerships originated with baseball in Japan and we are very excited about this opportunity to contribute to the growth and ongoing success of professional baseball in Taiwan," Mikitani said.

"Our collaboration with the newly rebranded Rakuten Monkeys also sets the stage to connect with more customers in Taiwan through our expanding Rakuten services, including e-commerce, travel, digital content and soon to be launched online banking," he added.

A new red, white and gold team jersey was also unveiled at Tuesday's press event, which is almost identical to that of the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, a Japanese pro-baseball team owned by Rakuten.

The Japanese owners also announced they are retaining the team's former General Manager Justin Liu (劉玠廷) and promoting former batting coach Tseng Hao-chu (曾豪駒) to the position of manager following the departure of Hong I-chung (洪一中), who joined another local team, the Fubon Guardians, following the change in ownership.

Rakuten is 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.

Liu said Tuesday that he hopes to introduce Japanese professional sports management and related technology.

The team is also sending young talent to the Golden Eagles for training to boost their skills.

Liu said the new owners chose Tseng because he provides the team with stability. Tseng was a player in the team for 10 years before serving as a member of the coaching staff for the past six years.

Meanwhile, Tseng expressed gratitude for his promotion.

He said he learned a great deal under Hong, the most successful CPBL manager, and is ready to build on Hong's style of coaching next season.

Established in 1997, Tokyo-based Rakuten is Japan's leading e-commerce and internet company and has run the Eagles since its formation in 2004.

The Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture-based team won its first and so far only Japan Series Championship in 2013.

La New sold all of its shares in the Taoyuan-based team to Rakuten on Sept. 19, after operating the team at a loss for the past 16 years.

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.