Sat, May 04, 2013 - Page 5 News List

FEATURE: ‘Uncle Yen’ maintains love for baseball

By Christy Ni and Jason Pan  /  Staff reporter and staff writer

Born in China’s Shandong Province in 1926, Yen served in the army and came to Taiwan in 1949.

He retired from the military in 1977, and at the invitation of then-head of the Retired Service Engineering Agency Yen Hsiao-chang (嚴孝章), he headed up the groundskeeper post at the Taipei Municipal Baseball Stadium in 1981.

That ballpark was torn down in January 2001 to make way for the construction of the Taipei Arena, so Yen decided to retire.

However, he was invited to become the head groundskeeper at the Tianmu Baseball Stadium in March 2001, so he continued and now does volunteer work at the ballpark.

His eldest son is now over 60, as Yen approaches his 90th year. However, he still walks with a quick pace, adding that the secret to his longevity is baseball.

“The more fans there are at the ballpark, the more energized and stronger I feel,” Yen said. “I will get sick if there is no audience for a game.”

Yen said that when he comes to the ballpark and sees the big crowd on a game day, he gets a boost of energy.

While working at the old Taipei Municipal Stadium, Yen at times lived at the ballpark.

“In those years, we had youthlevel games starting at 6am or 7am. There were also amateur and college games, and tickets sold out even for these games,” he said.

When he is not at the ballpark, Yen said he watches televised games, adding that one of the main reasons he watches the games on TV is “to see the passion of the fans.”

“Taiwanese baseball fans in the northern, central and southern regions behave differently when watching the games,” he said.

Yen once gave advice to the main founder of the nation’s pro league, Hung Teng-sheng (洪騰勝), saying: “The time is right to launch professional baseball. It is certain to be successful.”

Hung is now known as the “Father of Taiwanese pro baseball” for initiating the Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL) and was the president of the Brother Hotel, with his family owning the Brother Elephants team.

Yen said that in the late 1980s Hung was leading the effort to organize and start up the pro baseball league.

“At the time, Hung told me that all his money had been spent,” Yen said. “I told him that with hard work and diligence he could overcome the obstacles he was facing.”

Yen said Hung is thinking of inviting him to throw the ceremonial first pitch in an upcoming Brother Elephants game.

Yen said he would accept the invitation.

“I am willing to do anything that is good for Taiwan’s pro baseball,” he said.

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