Chen Yung-chi’s sacrifice fly to center field in the ninth, which gave the Uni-President Lions a 5-4 win over the Brother Elephants in Hsinchu on Tuesday night, marked the latest clutch hitting that the shortstop has delivered for his new team.
The hero for Taiwan in nearly every international competition over the past eight years, -highlighted by Grand Slams against China and South Korea in the 2006 World Baseball Classic and the Intercontinental Baseball Cup and his multi-homer outings in the Asian Games in 2006 and last year, has finally joined a Taiwanese professional squad to play out the rest of his career in his homeland after spending seven seasons in the US minors with three different teams.
With a batting average of .343, three home runs and 28 RBIs, Chen’s arrival has undoubtedly been the main reason that the Lions have climbed out of the cellar of last year’s fourth-place finish with a title-contending squad that is 23-11-1 (through Tuesday) and in a share of the lead in the standings with the Lamigo Monkeys.
“I know that it’s been a bumpy ride for me over the years with injuries and everything, but I’m not going to let that bother me right now,” Chen said earlier in the -season, referring to his disappointing stint in the US, which was marred by a series of injuries that kept him from realizing his dream of playing in the Major Leagues.
He was well on his way to becoming the Seattle Mariners’ next great infielder at both second base and third base after a couple of great seasons with the Tacoma Rainiers (the Mariners’ Triple-A affiliate) in 2006 and 2007. However, a shoulder injury that required surgery cut his 2007 season short and eventually ended his quest for the Majors as an injury to his right knee (2008) and left wrist (2009) followed.
Now that he has recovered from the injuries, Chen is looking to blossom in a Lions uniform, having signed a three-year contract for more than NT$11 million (US$384,500) after the Lions drafted him as the No. 1 overall pick.
His continued success will not only improve the level of play in the league, but also bring more fans to the ballpark in an era when local professional baseball is in desperate need of a clean-imaged icon after a slew of game-fixing scandals that has tarnished the game to the extent that its legitimacy has been questioned.
“I hope we can all have a clean and healthy environment [in which] to play this great game of baseball, because so much is at stake,” Chen said earlier in the season.