Taiwanese Players Follow Dream with Bombers
Lin Li and Min Hsia are developing baseball skills in Battle Creek
Lin Li and Min Hsia have traveled roughly 7,500 miles to follow a dream.
Both natives of Taiwan are currently playing summer collegiate baseball in the Northwoods League for the Battle Creek Bombers. Each would like to eventually join the 11 players from Taiwan who have reached Major League Baseball, so this summer they sought out an experience playing in the United States against top-level amateur competition.
"Doing a little research on them, it seemed like it was going to be a good fit for us," said Bombers manager Rob Robinson. "They came out and I'm more than pleased with their athletic ability and willingness to work on a daily basis. Yeah, the language barrier is there, but they are learning just as much as we are. I'm very pleased to have them here."
Li and Hsia represent a growing trend of international players trying out summer ball in the United States. Prior to this season, the Northwoods League announced a partnership with Collegiate Baseball League Europe, with six current players hailing from Russia, Netherlands, Belgium and Bulgaria. All hope to be selected by MLB teams when the international signing period begins July 2.
Li, a 20-year-old second baseman from Taoyuan, Taiwan, is batting .200 in 65 at bats with five doubles and 11 RBIs. Defensively, he leads the team with 57 assists and has a stellar .964 fielding percentage. His skills with the glove played a role in him being named the top second baseman at the 2013 U18 World Championships in Taichung, Taiwan.
The Battle Creek Bombers’ Min Hsia is a 19-year-old
The Battle Creek Bombers’ Min Hsia is a 19-year-old pitcher from Kaohsiung, Taiwan. (Photo: Al Lassen/For the Enquirer)
"A phenomenal glove," Robinson said of Li. "The internal clock of knowing what plays will happen before they do and getting a right jump. The double play feeds are just unreal. The hits are falling now. He's been hitting great the entire time, just smoking balls right at people. For him, he's a little disappointed because the numbers aren't there, but I try to tell him he's having quality at bats, and that's what matters."
Hsia, a 19-year-old pitcher from Kaohsiung, Taiwan, is 1-2 on the season with a 2.25 ERA. He began the summer as a reliever and has since made four starts for Battle Creek.
"All pitchers' deliveries are unique, but one thing that is different about Min is he has the ability to repeat his delivery very consistently," said Bombers pitching coach Matt Reed. "There's not a lot of guys at his age that can command a fastball, a forkball, a slider and a curveball — and throw those pitches for strikes. That's one thing I've been impressed with, how polished of a starter he is."
Li and Hsia arrived in the Cereal City thanks in part to Alan Chang, a Chicago-based baseball agent and a friend of their coach at National Taiwan Sport University. With Chang's help as a translator, both Li and Hsia reflected on their time so far in Battle Creek:
•B.C. Enquirer: How does playing in the Northwoods League compare to playing ball back home?
Lin Li: "The pitching in this league on the average is stronger than the pitching I see back home in Taiwanese college baseball. I have many opportunities here to play and get better."
Min Hsia: "Playing in the Northwoods league, we can see and feel that local baseball folks are very passionate about baseball and very committed to this team. This is a very different atmosphere from our college games in Taiwan. We can feel this team really takes good care of our players."
•BCE: Is there any cultural shock?
LL: "I am not sure what kind of cultural shock I would encounter. In high school, I have played in USA before — the 2014 Big League World Series in South Carolina. I am curious why drivers in America had to have a complete stop before driving? The most difficult thing for me so far is the language barrier. I don't know any English when I came here. Even ordering food in a restaurant is a challenge."
MH: "The biggest cultural shock: during the night, when we get hungry, many stores in the US close early. Unlike Taiwan, when we feel hungry at night at any hour, it is very convenient to go out and grab some food."
•BCE: How did you prepare yourself for this journey?
LL: "My goal for this trip is to learn about American baseball… getting challenged by tougher competition and get better in my game."
MH: "I didn't do any special preparation that's different from my routine in Taiwan. I just try to follow my routine from Taiwan to prepare and get ready for my games."
•BCE: What has it been like interacting with your new teammates and coaches?
LL: "I love my team… It's a very enjoyable experience playing here and we are happy playing baseball and joking around with my teammates."
MH: "Playing with the Bombers this summer is a joy. I really like playing together with my teammates and really enjoy the game. I am very happy playing here this summer…. I really like my new teammates in Battle Creek. They have embraced me and Li Lin and helped show us around and make us feel part of the Bombers family."
•BCE: What are your career goals in baseball?
LL: "I hope I have the opportunity to come to the US to play professional baseball. Because playing in a foreign country, I can learn a lot of things on and off the field I could not learn if I just stay in Taiwan."
MH: "My goal is to make it to the Major Leagues some day. In the meantime, I will focus on doing my best each game no matter the outcome."
Nick Buckley, email@example.com 8:23 p.m. EDT June 17, 2015
Nick Buckley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 269-966-0652. Follow him on Twitter:@NickJBuckley