CPBL Home Run Derby Diaries: Part 2


About three weeks ago, I bothered some people from the CPBL to get a media pass to the Home Run Derby that was held on Sunday, July 17, and they were kind enough to give me the access I asked for.

This was my first All-Star weekend event, so I really had no preconceptions about what to expect nor what was ahead. Luckily, I had my interpreter/photographer, Kris, with me to help navigate me and my poor linguistics.

Here is Part 2 of a running diary about my thoughts, conversations and observations on the CPBL Home Run Derby. I call it: Derby Diaries. All the events and times take place on Sunday, July 17.

If you missed Part 1, make sure to check it out here.


As I am at the donut station refueling, Rhinos SS Lo Kuo Lin comes by to grab a drink. My interpreter, Kris, asks if he has time for a few questions and he obliges politely.

Now, I wasn't totally prepared and slightly caught off guard, but I was aware that Lo had recently missed some time after taking a ball off the face in warm-ups. An injury that cost the rookie some games, but apparently didn't result in a concussion.

I ask him about the field conditions, expecting to hear similar negative stories like many of the other players, but surprisingly Lo feels the conditions aren't that bad.

“They really aren't that different,” Lo suggests.
I'm not sure that he knew that I knew about the injury because he mentions that he missed some time. He did add that the weather can affect the infields dramatically, but the man says the fields are uniform so I'll take his word on it.

“I actually voted for you and Lin Wei Ting (EDA 2B) as the defensive players of the year,” I excitedly tell the younger brother of Kao Kui Hui. I wasn't lying either.

“Thanks,” he says honestly in English.

The Rhinos have the best defensive team up the middle and their middle infield was averaging almost four double plays a game and leading the league by 20 percent at the halfway point of the season. I ask Lo what type of relationship he has with his second baseman.

“We practice a lot and we know what each other is going to do without talking,” the 23-year-old shortstop says.

The last thing I mention to Lo before he heads out to BP is something I wasn't totally sure about. I heard that his manager, Yeh Chun Chang, was the catcher for the Taiwanese national team that played team Canada in a memorable Olympic qualifier in Taichung.

Lo is very aware of the play. I was actually at that game. It was chaos. I casually mention that his current Rhinos teammate, pitcher Scott Richmond, was on Team Canada for that incident. Lo laughs loudly and mentions that he will talk to Scott about it.

He heads off to take some swings and I head out to the field to see if I can find more conversations. I'm really enjoying the players and the access. Talking about baseball all day is as good as it gets.


The players’ kids are all running around enjoying themselves. Most of the players are standing around the cage waiting for their turn to take some swings and casually chatting with each other. Having only four teams in the league really makes the players an amicable group.

I see Monkeys right fielder Yang Yao Hsun standing around smiling and I ask him what bat he is using and the weight. He says 31 ounces in Chinese and turns around to ask one of the team’s trainers how to say 31 in English.

He goes to takes some cuts and I introduce myself to the trainer.

She has a good story about doing her masters degree in America and then doing some work with the Cubs organization before coming back to Taiwan. It's very interesting to hear how players and the managers have the final say if a player stays in a game after an injury. She can just tell the manager her best assessment and opinion and then it's out of her hands. Everybody has an interesting story here.


I have a quick chat with Lo Kuo Lin about whether or not he has to change his swing for the competition.

“Just hit it hard,”  he replies.

Brothers third baseman No. 11 Chiang Chih Hsien is chatting with Monkeys No. 29 Chen Chun Hsiu. I wait for their conversation to end before I chat with Chen.

Chen is coming off a game where he hit two home runs and totaled nine bases.

“Do you feel you are locked in and seeing pitches well?” I ask the Monkeys’ clean-up hitter.

He disagrees slightly, saying he isn’t picking up fastballs as well as he would like and lacks the consistency he had at the beginning of the season.

I then ask the slugger if he has to tweak his swing at all for the derby to which he replies, “Yes.”

He explains that because his stance is usually so low, that he needs to stand more upright for the derby and he will be using a heavier bat than he usually uses for games.

By now, the rain has started to fall and most people head for cover in the dugout or locker room. Kris and I head to the patio tables with the umbrellas and hope that it won't last.


Coincidentally, another man is standing under our umbrella. He looks young and is well dressed. I am amazed by how many people are wearing pants in this 37-degree weather. Kris tells me that he is Chen Chun Chi and was the Secretary General of the CPBL from 2013 to 2014. I honestly have no idea what that job entails but I guarantee he has some good baseball stories.

I introduce myself and Kris. He seems genuinely interested in what we are doing. My first question is what he likes best about being out of the league's office.

“I'm happy to watch the game. Just be a fan,” Mr. Chen replies.

As the rain keeps falling and the three of us are huddled around this plastic table and umbrella, I’m curious to know what his CPBL beginnings were.

For many of the players here today, they have said that their first baseball memory had something to do with watching the Taiwanese National team on TV. Chen’s story is slightly more different but absolutely one of a kind.

“I went to a Brothers game when I was ten,” the former Secretary General says.

“Oh, who did you go with?” I ask.

He says he went to the game with somebody he didn't know but he knew that the man was a baseball fan. Surprised, I ask him what his parents thought.

“They didn't know.”

We both laugh and I have to make sure with Kris that nothing is lost in translation. It turns out he went to the game with a fan of the Brothers, watched his first ball game, and returned home safely.

I know this sounds slightly dangerous, but isn't there something so innocent and rewarding about it? Chen mentions he didn't come from a “baseball family” so perhaps if it wasn't for this kind Brothers fan, then Chen, a man who has given much of his time to help promote baseball on this island, might not have gotten involved in the game. I think it's a great story and it was something that the well-spoken Chen enjoyed telling.

Our conversation moves over to youth baseball and mostly about the lack of local diamonds for young kids and a lack of recreational leagues in Taiwan. Mr. Chen tells us that he is doing a lot of work with the indigenous youth, mainly on Taiwan's east coast. He shares my feelings about trying to promote and encourage local youth to play baseball, except he actually does something about it.

He seems extremely passionate about the game and it's great to see people with the drive to encourage and help baseball grow nationally. He adds that more than 40 percent of currently rostered CPBL players (first and second teams) are indigenous peoples. That's 92 of 210 players who are yuan zhu min (原住民).

With the rain starting to die down, I ask the former league official about his greatest accomplishment while working for the league. He mentions that the 2013 Asia Series was what he was proud of the most. The 2013 Asia Series was held in Taichung and hosted teams from Japan, Korea, Italy, Australia and two Taiwanese teams. He said he increased the staff to help local teams (Uni President 7-Eleven Lions and EDA Rhinos) relax and concentrate on baseball during the international competition.

The increase in staff mirrors what the Japanese national team does when they compete. If you have ever seen Samurai Japan’s delegation then you know that they travel with a huge amount of people including cooks, masseuses, trainers, doctors, and media. The move seemed to work as the Uni Lions made it to the finals but were beaten by the Canberra Cavalry of the Australian Baseball League (ABL).  

The rain stops and that means it's almost time for the main event. We thank Mr. Chen for his time and we try to get out of the way as the workers are feverishly trying to make up for lost time in setting things up. The cheerleaders are taking the field, so it looks like things are getting underway.


The players are all introduced and are wearing towels over their backs covering their numbers. They take some time to do a photo op to the music of a song from The Lion King before lining up at home plate to watch a special Chen Chin Feng tribute video that's shown on the big screen.

After the video, the players remove the towels to reveal the No. 52 on each jersey in homage to the Monkeys slugger.

I lean over to a friend who is a higher-up in the league and ask him if there will ever be someone who will be as loved and appreciated as Chen Chin Feng.

He convincingly says, “Nope.”

As I pass the dugout, I see Brothers players No.11 Chiang Chih Hsien, No. 77 Cheng Da Hong and No. 6 Chang Cheng Wei. I quickly ask Chiang his predictions for the contest.

“Kao,” he says casually.

I also ask if he thinks we might see a 500-footer. I heard earlier that Lin Chih Sheng has the record for a 495-foot homer in a previous derby, so 500 feet isn't insane.

A simple, “maybe,” he replies with a smile on his face


Ok, it's show time. The first matchup of the day is 13-year CPBL-veteran, Lions No. 56 Liu Fu Hao, versus Rhinos rookie No. 59 Lo Kuo Lin. Liu has played 1,124 more games than Lo and is 180 cm tall, 78 kg and 37-years old. Lo is just 22-years old and weighs 92 kg and is 183 cm tall.

Total: 14
Long: 436’
Average distance: 402’

Total: 8
Long: 434’
Average distance: 401’

Liu has some serious pop and even though he didn't hit a 500 footer, that 436-foot blast will be tough to beat. Lo had his brother, Lo Kuo Hua, throwing to him which I'm sure is special for both of them.

Down the first-base line, I see Lin Chih Sheng, and who I assume to be his wife, stretching. It looks like they have a routine. Nice to have spousal support.

Winner: Liu Fu Hao 14-8


The second battle of the first round is between heavy favorite and CPBL single-season home run record holder Rhinos’ No. 28 Kao Kuo Hui and Monkeys’ No. 23 Yang Yao Hsun. Yang was a last-minute substitute for No. 85 Chu Yu Hsien and is wearing Chu’s jersey. Chu apparently wasn't 100 percent.

The 30-year-old Kao is 189 cm tall and a thick 95 kg. This man has arms the size of my legs and is by far the best bet to win this derby. Yang, 33, measures in at 178 cm and 90 kg thanks in part to his massive legs.

Total: 23
Long: 426’
Average distance: 392’

Total: 9
Long: 414'
Average distance: 393'

Yang pulls off the massive upset after he peppers the seats in right field with home run after home run. Yang hit homers at such a fast pace, that two of his 23 bombs never got measured.

That was really impressive. Nothing Kao can do there, Yang just owned it. It's amazing he kept so many of those balls fair. He hits the ball so early in his swing but somehow keeps it in play.

While chatting with a member of the Rhinos training staff I ask who lifts the most weight on the team. The trainer, arms crossed, just motions towards Kao.  

“He lifts heavy, heavy weight.”

Winner: Yang Yao Hsun 23-9


On my way back from the bathroom, I hear somebody say, “Hey.”

Not thinking anybody wants to talk with me, I ignore it until I hear it again.


I turn around and see Liu Fu Hao. He apologizes for not hitting that 500-foot home run he had bet me. I mention that he has another round to make good and wish him luck. He is a pretty awesome dude.


Matchup number three is an exciting one. It pits reigning MVP Brothers’ No. 32 Lin Chih Sheng against Lions’ rookie outfielder No. 28 Cheng Kai Wen.

Lin is the best hitter in the league and has a real chance at winning the triple crown this year. He is 34, 183 cm tall and surprisingly weighs 103 kg. He also has played 1,000 more CPBL games than his opponent.

Cheng leads rookies in long balls and will probably set a new rookie record for home runs this year. He is 24, 186 cm tall and weighs 96 kg. He is also my underdog pick to win the competition.

Total: 8
Long: 418’
Average distance: 394’

Total: 12
Long: 408’
Average distance: 385’

Cheng had zero homers in his first minute and only two at the 2:44 mark.

Lin picks ups the win despite some obvious pain in his back leg. It is also cool that Brothers manager, Wu Fu Lien, is throwing to both Lin and teammate Chang Chih Hao.

Winner: Lin Chih Sheng 12-8


The final pairing of the first round is Monkeys’ clean-up hitter No. 29 Chen Chun Hsiu versus Brothers’ CF No. 7 Chang Chih Hao.

The 27-year-old Chen is 183 cm and 97 kg. He is on pace to hit more than 30 homers this year.

Chang has missed a month prior to the All-Star Game due to a lower-body injury. But, when he is in the lineup, he rakes. He is hitting a home run every 15 at-bats. The 29-year-old outfielder is 180 cm and weighs 80 kg.

Total: 20
Long: 410’
Average distance: 377’

Total: 21
Long: 430’
Average distance: 387’

I went out into the seats in right field for this one and was happy I did as this was by far the best match-up. Chang hit four taters in the last 30 seconds, including a 430 footer with time expiring, to beat Chen. Chang was hitting consecutive home runs so quickly that the fans had no idea as he littered the seats with souvenirs.

No. 7 also had wicked hitting music and I'm not sure if anyone else even did. As I head back to the field, I pass Chang’s wife. She is smiling from ear to ear. We high five each other.

Winner: Chang Chih Hao 21-20


The first match of the semifinals is Liu Fu Hao vs. Yang Yao Hsun. Liu had the longest home run in the first round at 436’ but Yang had the most (23).

Long: 427’
Average distance: 394’
Total: 15
Long: 423’
Average distance: 380’

Yang eliminates Liu after another impressive performance and punches his ticket to the finals. Not bad for a last minute substitute.

Liu didn’t get his 500-foot home run, but the next day, MLB Cut4 posted this. So in the end, he sort of got his wish.

All these swings are starting to take their toll on the players. Add in the heat and it's no wonder Yang didn't finish his full five minutes.

Winner: Yang Yao Hsun 15-10


The legend, Chen Chin Feng, is walking in and out of the dugout and looks like he is warming up. Will we see him hit some dingers? I hope so.

The last semifinal matchup is between Brothers teammates Chang Chih Hao and Lin Chih Sheng. The Brothers’ No. 2 and No. 4 batters will have their manager, Mr. Wu, pitching to both of them.

Total: 19
Long: 417’
Average distance: 380’

Total: 12
Long: 413’
Average distance: 389’

No magic comeback for Chang this round. He had trouble getting into a groove and perhaps it's a good thing for the recently recovered outfielder that he doesn't advance to the finals so he can rest. I hope he comes back to the Brothers lineup once the regular season resumes.

Lin managed to blast 19 homers basically using just his arms. He looked to tweak his right leg on his first swing. Let's just hope he takes it easy in the finals against Yang.

Lin hit a ball that was popped foul near us on the first-base side that was playfully retrieved by his mother. She looked as happy as any kid who gets a foul ball. Lin and his family are pretty stand-up people.

Winner: Lin Chih Sheng 19-12


It is time for No. 52 to enjoy what might be his last All-Star event. The 38-year-old former Dodger and Taiwanese legend is hitting to this dope beat. Not sure if he chose the song or not but it seems to be working because he absolutely annihilates the first pitch, a warm up, to the last row in left field.

Chen will be swinging until he gets five outs.

With one out, he crushes his first one out of the stadium. A hit that measured in at 435 feet. Damn...

His second home run also decides to leave Xinzhuang Stadium, 405 feet. The ball just explodes off his bat and makes that sweet, sweet sound that you don't hear too often.

Chen finishes with four home runs and his 435-foot blast is the second longest of the day. This is a great introduction to what is going to be a fantastic final.


It’s time for the main event. The 2016 CPBL Home Run Derby finals will see the surprise of the competition, Monkeys’ Yang Yao Hsun, square off against arguably the best Taiwanese baseball player of all time, Lin Chih Sheng.

Total: 14
Long: 406’
Average distance: 385’

Total: 24
Long: 416’
Average distance: 385’

Lin Chih Sheng shows some serious guts, lashing 24 bombs in obvious pain. After he finished his four minutes (reduced time for the finals), the Brothers’ second baseman had 18 homers and looked like he physically couldn't go on. But Lin ignored the pain and ripped another six long balls in the name of charity.

After the victory, Lin limps over to manager Wu Fu Lien and gives him a big hug.

If Chen Chin Feng does actually retire this year, Lin will undoubtedly be the face of the CPBL, and there couldn't be a better person suited for that position.  

Winner: Lin Chih Sheng 24-14


I pass Lin’s mother and say congratulations to her in Chinese. She is glowing with happiness.

The children all look tired, the players have started to pack up and the fans are filtering out of the stadium, out into the streets of New Taipei City.

I thank Kris for all the help and grab a donut for the road. As I walk out the players entrance/exit at Xinzhuang Stadium, I am amazed at all the fans lined up hoping to get a glance or an autograph from their favorite CPBL All-Stars. I remind myself how lucky I am to have experienced such a great day of baseball and how fortunate I am to be given the opportunity to be part of it.

Sitting in the air-conditioned taxi heading back to Taoyuan, I realize I just spent almost nine hours at a ball game and haven't had one beer. That has to be a first. Off to 7-Eleven for a cold one and to look back on what was an amazing day of baseball. Hot, but amazing.


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