CPBL Open Tryout Hopefuls Looking to Impress

Today at Taichung Intercontinental Stadium, the Chinese Professional Baseball League will hold its first ever open tryout. The showcase will bring out 26 athletes who are looking to get noticed by at least one of the four Taiwanese teams.

From the 26 participants, half of those players are local Taiwanese, all of whom were previously affiliated with the CPBL. The remaining 13 players consist of 11 players from Japan, an American catcher, and a pitcher from Hong Kong.

The youngest of the foreign tryouts, Japanese-born, 20-year-old Chikara Igami is hoping this opportunity can help him reach his ultimate goal.

“I want to be a Major League Baseball player. That's why I want to gain baseball experience and make my baseball background in the CPBL,” the righthander replied when asked what his goals and expectations were for the tryout.

Japanese RHP Chikara Igami
Photo courtesy of C. Igami
After finishing high school baseball in Japan and two national baseball programs, the young pitcher jumped the pond and went stateside in 2016. Igami joined the California Winter League before getting signed to the Vienna Wanderers of the Austrian Baseball League.

For American catcher Kyle Strauss the tryout is a chance to keep playing the game he loves after moving to Taiwan with his girlfriend. “I just want to have fun. This isn't a pass/fail situation for me and I'm just looking forward to being on the baseball field again after a couple months off.”

American Catcher Kyle Strauss
Photo courtesy of K. Strauss
With stops at the American collegiate level, semi-pro and the Deurne Spartans in Belgium, the 28-year-old Strauss is well experienced and understands the difficulties in getting the scouts’ attention. “I think the most difficult aspect of the tryout will be to stand out. I don't think it will be enough to be a good baseball player. To catch interest, a player will truly need to stand out from others.”

The catcher added, “My goal for the tryout is to hit the ball hard eight times (I've been told hitters will get eight at-bats). As good of a catcher as I may be that day, it is not defense but offense which will more likely catch attention.”

No local baseball player from Hong Kong has ever played professional baseball globally, but 25-year-old pitcher Kenny Chiu is trying to change that.

“Being able to carry the Hong Kong spirit to play with all these semi-pro/pro players is already a blessing,” Chiu explained. “My goal is to give myself a chance to be a professional baseball player. There hasn't been a local Hong Kong player who has made it to pro ball. I would love to get my name out there to prove it to myself and our younger generation in Hong Kong that being a pro baseball baller is possible.”

Hong Kong RHP Kenny Chiu
Photo courtesy K. Chiu
The Taiwanese stars of the CPBL are not entirely new to the submarine pitcher. Chiu started for Hong Kong against the Taiwanese national team during the 2010 Asian Games, a game in which Hong Kong fell 16-0 in a mercy-shortened five innings. Although the results were not what Chiu had hoped for, the overall experience is something that has helped him grow as a pitcher.

“I had some real bad outings in the 2010 Asian Games. To me, it was brutal but memorable. I would say it has been the best lesson I have ever learned. I was at my lowest time and I got assigned to start against Chinese Taipei. I treated it like any other game and I walked the first three batters before stepping down from the mound with none out, in the first inning. This experience made me think even more on the field and lifted me up to the person I am now.”

The tryouts will last just one day and the probability of these players getting signed to a CPBL club seems slim. However, sometimes just getting a chance is all a player needs to show that they belong. Good luck to all the participants.