Fri, Dec 21, 2018 - Page 16 News List

Top hitter Wang signs with Ham Fighters

By Jason Pan  /  Staff reporter

Two-time CPBL MVP Wang Po-jung poses in a Nippon Ham Fighters uniform at a media event announcing his signing with the Japanese team on Wednesday in Taipei.

Photo: Chen Chih-chu, Taipei Times

Taiwan’s top hitter Wang Po-jung on Wednesday officially became a member of Japan’s Nippon Ham Fighters at a media event in Taipei.

The Sapporo-based team gave Wang a three-year contract worth about US$4 million, plus incentives for reaching performance targets.

The former Lamigo Monkeys outfielder donned a Ham Fighters jersey with “Wang 99” emblazoned on the back to announce his move to Japanese pro baseball.

Nippon executives are giving Wang the “international superstar” treatment, with team president Kenso Takeda and manager Hideki Kuriyama at the ceremony producing a 107-page introductory guidebook on Wang for Japanese fans.

Takeda and Kuriyama were optimistic that the 25-year-old slugger would quickly adapt to the Japanese game, saying they have confidence he would establish a place in the heart of the team’s lineup.

“My wishes are to stay healthy and play regularly in my first season in Japan next year,” Wang said. “I will give my best effort.”

“I shall take with me my Taiwanese baseball spirit to never give up,” he said. “Any successful transition will require time, so I will tackle the pressure and obstacles in front of me and continue to pursue excellence.”

Wang, who is a two-time batting champion and won the year-end CPBL MVP award in 2016 and last year, has been touted as the best locally produced player in years.

The Pingtung County native was the first Taiwanese pro player to make the jump to Japan through a posting system. His new club reportedly paid a posting fee of NT$55.42 million (US$1.8 million) to the Lamigo Monkeys for the right to negotiate a player contract.

Wang is an outstanding player with top skills, and the Ham Fighters as well as the city of Sapporo expect to reap economic benefits and see more cultural interactions, as Wang will hopefully draw baseball fans and tourists from Taiwan, Takeda said.

“Wang will play a vital role in our team for the next three years, and will boost tourism and the local economy,” Takeda said. “For Hokkaido, we get an average of 600,000 visitors from Taiwan each year. With Wang joining our club, we foresee breaking the 1 million barrier in the coming years.”

Takeda also touted Hokkaido’s natural scenery, hot springs and fresh seafood, adding that a new baseball stadium is to be ready for the 2023 season.

The Ham Fighters have planned carefully to ease Wang’s transition into the highly competitive world of Japanese baseball, Kuriyama said.

“We have been watching him for years and know he is quite a special player,” he said. “Lamigo and Taiwanese fans: Please have faith in us to help Wang grow and become an even better player.”

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