Sun, Jan 17, 2010 - Page 19 News List

Taiwan player looks forward to new year in Japanese league

STAFF WRITER, WITH CNA

Taiwanese baseball player Lin Wei-chu flew back to Osaka, Japan, on Friday, hoping to shake off an up-and-down year and win a starting outfielder position with Hanshin Tigers of the Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) league in the new season.

Lin, 31, said his approach to the new season would be “back to square one” after last season was plagued by problematic adjustments to a new manager and a slump.

“My goal for the new season will be winning the starting position either in right field or center field and hitting 15 home runs,” he said.

If he makes the starting list, he said, he has full confidence to duplicate a successful year like 2007.

“I think I rushed it a little bit last year trying to adjust to a new manager and ended up with a sub-par performance,” he said.

Taiwanese baseball is known for producing quality pitchers, as most players signed by foreign leagues are pitchers, such as former Yankees pitcher Wang Chien-ming. Lin, however, is one of the few Taiwanese players employed by a league overseas who does not make a living on the mound.

He also took the road less traveled. Unlike most players who chase their American dream in the US Major League, he chose Japan at an early age.

Arriving in Yanagawa High School, Fukuoka, Japan, as an 18-year-old high school kid in 1997, Lin quickly established his reputation as a powerful left-handed power hitter. He later enrolled in Kinki University and was selected at No. 7 by Hanshin in the 2002 draft.

While Lin blasted a home run in his first at-bat with the Hanshin minor league team and debuted in the big league in 2004, it was not until 2007 that he became a regular starter. He turned in the best performance that year with a .292 batting average and 15 home runs in 115 games.

Last year, Lin appeared in only 56 games, registering a .208 batting average and only six home runs, mostly as a pinch hitter.

Things will be better in the upcoming season, he said, because he will be able to participate in the full spring training after missing the camp last year when he joined the Taiwanese national team for the World Baseball Classic.

Lin said he did not think last season was a lost year for him. Moreover, he said he finally felt comfortable with his right shoulder, which was repaired two years ago.

“I was just in a slump, but I was pretty much injury-free, which means I could at least work myself out of the slump and spend more time thinking. That is not the case when you are injured and cannot even practice,” he said.

Despite living in Japan for 12 years, Lin said Taiwan is always home for him.

“I am still very Taiwanese and I’m proud of being Taiwanese. My eyes always light up whenever my teammates and friends in Japan talk about Taiwan,” he said, adding that he would represent Taiwan in international competitions in a heartbeat if invited and available.

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