Announcing that he is back and ready to challenge the top hitters, former Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Kuo Hong-chih (郭泓志) is an “NT$40 million dollar man” after becoming the highest paid baseball player in Taiwan’s history.
Kuo, 32, donned the orange-colored home uniform of the Uni-President Lions team, with the number “00” number on its back, as details of his record-breaking contract were announced at a press conference in Taipei yesterday.
The three-year contract with the Tainan-based Lions is worth a total of NT$ 40.8 million (US$ 1.4 million), with NT$ 11 million for the first year, NT$ 11.6 million for the second and NT$ 12.2 million for the third, plus NT$ 2 million of incentive bonuses each year.
“It is an honor to wear the uniform of the Lions team, because Tainan City is my hometown. I grew up and learned to play baseball there,” Kuo said, “In fact, I know the Tainan ballpark quite well, because it was near my home in the old days. In junior high school I was a ball boy for the Lions team, watching the players train and picking up batting practice balls for them, so it is a special feeling to come back and play in a familiar environment, while contributing to Taiwan’s baseball development.”
The lefty fireballer told his new team that he is ready to take the mound either as a starter, or as a reliever in late-inning situations. Kuo joked that he can also slot into the designated hitter position because he had hit a home run for the Dodgers, the first ever homer by a Taiwanese player in the MLB.
“This is a whole new challenge for me, to pitch against the best hitters in Taiwan, but I’m really looking forward to facing these guys next season” Kuo said as he listed his main pitching rivals: Lin Yi-chuan (林益全) of the EDA Rhinos, Chen Chin-feng (陳金鋒) of the Lamigo Monkeys and Peng Cheng-min (彭政閔) of the Brother Elephants.
On choosing “00” for his shirt number, Kuo said: “It means starting anew from zero again, that I’m back to make a new beginning.”
The 32-year-old was with the Los Angeles Dodgers team on the major league roster for most of the seven seasons from 2005 to 2011. He wrapped up his MLB career with 218 game appearances, for a 13-17 record with 3.73 ERA, 13 saves, and 345 strikeouts.
Kuo’s time at the Dodgers was avidly followed by Taiwanese fans and his return home is predicted to swell ballpark attendances.