Wang’s MLB Comeback Inspires Taiwanese

Wang’s MLB Comeback Inspires Taiwanese
Photo Credit: AP / 達志影像

Compiled and translated by Bing-sheng Lee

Chien-ming Wang, a 36-year-old baseball pitcher from Taiwan, has made his first appearance back on the mound of Major League Baseball since August 24, 2013. He took the ball at the top of the ninth inning and pitched a scoreless frame for the Kansas City Royals, securing a 7-0 victory over the Minnesota Twins.

Wang, who was a 19-game winner for two consecutive seasons in 2006 and 2007 for the New York Yankees, has not pitched in the league for 959 days. The last time he faced a MLB batter was in 2013 when he was a member of the Toronto Blue Jays.

Wang was signed by the Royals on a minor-league deal earlier this year. He was invited to the Royals spring training camp and given a chance to persuade the coaching staff to put him in the 25-man roster for the coming season.

The pitcher arrived at the camp as a long shot to make the major league side. Yet, Wang battled against the odds and pitched very well in spring training.

Wang appeared in nine games and threw 15 innings with an earned run average (ERA) of 2.40. The velocity of his primary weapon, sinker ball, has risen significantly compared to previous seasons, touching 95 miles per hour several times. According to BrooksBaseball.net, Wang has not thrown that fast since 2009.

The Royals coaching staff was amazed by Wang’s resurgent performance in spring training. On April 3, the team announced its official 25-man roster for the 2016 season and Wang successfully claimed the last spot in the club’s bullpen. Based on the team’s plan, Wang is assigned the role of middle relief pitcher.

Speaking to The Kansas City Star, Royals Manager Ned Yost said, “We really like the sinker. We envision him being a fifth- or sixth-inning guy for us, maybe even a seventh-inning guy if we need a double play. He’s got a lot of action on that sinker.”

Yesterday’s game against the Twins was the fourth game of the Royals’ season and Wang finally made his season debut. After the Royals scored seven and allowed zero to its opponent in the first eight innings, Wang was called into the game by Yost at the top of ninth to wrap up the game for the Royals.

Wang did not let the coaching staff down. He threw 22 pitches, all sinkers, with 13 of them being strikes, and did not allow a run. Though he walked the first batter he faced, he immediately settled down and generated a flyout and a groundout afterwards. Wang stuck out the fourth hitter of the inning to end the game. His fastest pitch of the game was clocked at 92 miles per hour.

Asked about Wang’s season debut, Yost said that Wang was a little unstable but had done a great job of controlling the ball.

Wang did what his team wanted, which was to see him strike out a batter, Yost added.

Talking to reporters after the game, Wang said, “I am very happy to be back in the big league.”

He said he was neither nervous nor excited when going into the game. Wang was completely focused on executing every pitch and carrying out the mission assigned to him by the coaching staff.

Asked about which part of his debut performance needs improving, Wang said he threw the ball too low in the beginning of his outing. He then adjusted his pitches to a higher location.

“It’s good to keep the ball low, but sometimes the ball sank too hard and went directly into the dirt,” Wang said.

Wang also thanked Taiwanese fans for supporting him. He said, “The fans have been waiting for this moment from the opening day of the season. I want to thank them for anticipating my performance and supporting me.”

Photo Credit:Keith Allison CC BY SA 2.0

Photo Credit: Keith Allison CC BY SA 2.0

Taiwanese ecstatic

Wang’s comeback to the majors has made the headlines of most of the mainstream media in Taiwan and Taiwanese people seem excited and happy about seeing Wang return to the big league.

A netizen says, “Even the god of baseball cannot come up with a script like this. What we can do is to provide Wang with the best support and encouragement when he has success.”

Another netizen says to Wang, “Sorry for not believing that you could make a comeback to the majors. You really deserve to be in the highest level!"

Other netizens also shared their feelings on watching Wang’s performance. One says, “It’s really an enjoyment to watch Wang’s sinker balls.” Another says, “I am so touched by the moment that I shed tears when Wang struck out the batter. It feels great to see Wang make his comeback!”

Wang has been a Taiwanese folk hero since he debuted in the MLB as a Yankees player in 2005. Even though he was not the first Taiwanese to pitch at the highest level, he was the first player from Taiwan who succeeded and played well in the majors.

In 2006, Wang won league-leading 19 games and posted a solid 3.63 ERA for the Yankees. He was one of the best starting pitchers in the American League and finished second in the American League Cy Young Award competition, the highest honor given to the best pitcher of the league each year.

Wang continued his success in 2007, putting up another 19-win season. During that successful run, Wang’s games were highly anticipated by fans in Taiwan. His popularity was so high at the time that some media called the phenomenon “the Wang Mania.”

Yet, a severe leg injury in 2008 and several shoulder injuries in 2009 derailed Wang’s career. He was not the same pitcher after suffering those injuries.

Wang then became a baseball journeyman from team to team. He spent most of the time in the minor league systems of the Washington Nationals, the Yankees, the Blue Jays, the Cincinnati Reds, and the Chicago White Sox.

Last Year, Wang started the season with the minor league of the Atlanta Braves, but was released in the mid-season. He later signed with the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs, an independent league team, and finished the season with the triple A team of the Seattle Mariners, which he joined after pitching a month for the Blue Crabs.

Even though Wang was already 35 when released by the Mariners, and it was generally considered impossible to make a comeback to the Majors again, he never gave up. To improve his chances of getting back to the big league, Wang listened to his agent’s advice and participated in a special project designed by Texas Baseball Ranch, a baseball training center that has helped other veteran pitchers.

Wang regained his pitching strength and command after finishing the program and adopting the advice of the ranch’s founder, Ron Wolforth. His fastball was back to the level when he was at his best. His significant progress was even a surprise to Wang himself when he found that he can again reach a speed of 95 miles per hour.

Edited by Edward White

Sources:

Liberty Times
ETtoday
Apple Daily
“Chien-Ming Wang, Terrance Gore claim final spots as Royals set opening day roster” (Kansas City Star)
“Royals’ Chien-Ming Wang has solid outing in 5-2 win over the A’s” (Kansas City Star)
TVBS
Sports Vision
Brooksbaseball.net


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