|Source: Daniel Ho|
Get cozy, grab a drink, and settle in for this one. The Fubon Guardians have a trio of imports that have all at one point been the ace of their respective CPBL teams: Mike Loree for the Rhinos now Guardians, Bryan Woodall for the Brothers, and Bruce Billings for the Lions. And now they are all gathered on the same team and compose a formidable one-two-three combo to anchor the Guardians pitching staff. Kudos to the Guardians for signing all three in the second year under new ownership.
On paper, it doesn't get much better, numbers-wise or CPBL experience-wise. Or does it? After spending some time interviewing the Guardians imports, I am even more impressed with the character and quality of them as individuals.
CPBL English presents fans with Get To Know Your Imports: The Fubon Guardians.
#26 RHP Bruce Billings
Born: November 18, 1985 -- United States
Height: 183 cm
Weight: 95 kg
Who has been your biggest influence as a baseball player? Growing up it was my dad. His story really influenced me to play baseball, to have fun, but to take it seriously at the same time and not take it for granted. When my pops was growing up he had to stop playing baseball for the family. There was a family situation where he had to start working to help out and get things going. So, I knew the opportunities in my life, I was really indebted to him and the sacrifices he made, not just as a kid to help his mom, but also him as a father to his wife and his kids, myself included. So, I never took it granted, how much fun the game is. Baseball is a humbling game, it's a great game for building character, so yeah, my dad was my greatest influence.
How about as a person? [Laughs] It's my dad. My dad is my hero...my dad is a big believer in treating people the way you want to be treated, respecting others, doing the right thing when no one is watching, having morals, and being a leader, especially when there was no one else to be a leader. I just looked up to him as a man's man, you know? Fight for others who can't fight for themselves. When I think about everything that it is to be a man, I would think of my dad. Over the years I've been fortunate to meet some other very good male figures like my college baseball coach, who happened to be Tony Gywnn. He was always one of my favorite players to watch but one of the things that stood out to me was his consistency and his love for San Diego. He wasn't born in San Diego but he played his entire career there and was loyal so it was an honor to go play for him at San Diego State and be around him. Shoot, I could go on and on...my wife's father, just another really good man and in the spiritual sense and believing in a higher power (Christianity). He's really helped me to come along and come full circle in what it means to be a man. So I'm blessed.
What has been the most satisfying moment of your baseball career so far? Geez, that is a very tough one. In a baseball career, there are so many ups-and-downs and so many little achievements. The longer you play, the more achievements you'll have and some of them will feel bigger than others. To say the biggest one, I'll just look back on one that felt really good. When I was 12, I was playing in a tournament in Cooperstown, NY. It was a group of us from my neighborhood, we were on a travel ball team and we went out to Cooperstown and there were 45 teams there and that week we played like, 12 games in eight days. And on the last day, we played like, four games that day and we won all of them. That week just felt magical. Just a group of kids from the same neighborhood, going across the country to play, represent our community, and we did really well.
What are some expectations you have for yourself this season? I like to keep my expectations to stuff that is realistic. I'm not into the statistical expectations. I'm into what can I do in terms of my effort, my mentality? If I can control those things, the stats will come. My goal is to be true to myself, be healthy, and be positive. To help this team win in any way I can and try to make the most of this time.
What's the most difficult part of playing overseas? Of course, it's being away from my family. I have a niece and two nephews from one of my sisters. They are just growing up so fast and when I go home to San Diego in the offseason, for like a week, just seeing them, it's like a time machine. I'll be away for baseball and 10 months later, these kids have grown so much and learned so much, and their personalities are just growing and I just want them to stop because I'm missing so much of their lives because of my life. So, that is the hardest part, being away from loved ones for so long.
What are your impressions of Taiwan? I love the people of Taiwan. There are some great people here. It's such a family-friendly place and you just feel the love. People care for each other here, it's really nice. And the food is delicious of course and it's a beautiful country to look at. Shoot, there's not much to say that's not good about Taiwan. It does get a little hot...
If you weren't playing baseball, what do you think you would be doing? I don't know man! I'm a firm believer in having plan A and sticking to plan A, you know? I think people that have backup plans, it's very hard for them to focus on the first plan. Once you lose your focus, that's when the backup plans start coming into play because you're not fully invested in that first plan. So I'm fully invested in my first plan and if whatever day comes that I'm like, alright plan, you gotta move on, I'll figure it out from there.
Do you have a secret talent? I wouldn't say it's secret. I like to draw but it's not a secret. I like to share that talent. Hmm...I play video games, I'm pretty good at video games, I guess that's a secret [Grand Theft Auto 5]. I'm a pretty good racer.
What do you like to do during your free time? I like bike riding. I took up bike riding with my wife and her family. I like hiking. My wife and I will go on little adventures here and there, go somewhere we haven't been and spend the night, learn about that area, and try the local food.
Favorite place you've played? Ooo man, I didn't get to play at Fenway Park but I was there, standing on the field, watching the game from the bullpen, that was a good spot. Playing at Hsinzhuang, here in Taipei, in front of a packed house...that is one of my favorite places to play in the entire world. I'm super excited that's our home field because the atmosphere that the games bring in Taiwan, especially the people here, it makes the games more exciting for everyone. It's not just for the fans for the players as well, it just makes it more fun. The stadium has a really good field, it's intimate, the fans are right on top of you, and it's in the heart of Taipei and it's just buzzing.
Favorite food? I love many foods! My favorite, favorite, favorite food is Mexican food...tacos, guacamole, salsa. Dude, it's good stuff! Traditional Mexican food right off the grill with fresh vegetables and salsa...it's actually good for you. I'll go Mexican food and I love me some good Chinese food, like Kung-pao chicken, I could eat Kung-Pao chicken every day.
Favorite movie? The Dark Knight series by Christopher Nolan...Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Night Rises.
Favorite song or band? I love a lot of different types of music. One day I might listen to hip-hop, the next day maybe R&B, the day after that I might listen to classical music. [If I'm starting] there are three songs that I listen to by Hans Zimmer. Two of them are from the Batman movies and one of them is from Inception. One is called The Dark Knight, one is called Rise, and then the last one is called Time. There are no vocals, it's just music. I'll listen to it for hours before a game and think about baseball, my game plan, and just get my mind right.
Favorite book? Besides the Bible, I would say Tuesday's with Morrie by Mitch Albom.
If you could have one superpower, what would it be? Oh man, I would pick the power to heal. Anything I touch would heal.
What is your dream vacation spot? Sitting on a beach in Hawaii with my wife.
Tea or coffee? Tea
Rice or noodles? Rice
Mac or PC? Mac
Avengers or Justice League? Ah man...I'm a big Batman fan but the Avengers movies are better.
Hot weather or cold weather? Hot
Morning person or night person? Both
Spend time alone or go to a party? Uh...am I resting or having a good time?! I rest when I'm alone but enjoy being around people so that's a tough one!
Read a book or go hiking? Hiking
Run or lift? Weights
Amusement park or museum? Ooo, amusement park.
#39 RHP Mike Loree
Born: September 14, 1984 -- United States
Height: 192 cm
Weight: 99 kg
How about as a person? I think just my family. I know that's not one person but you know, my mom and dad and the values they instilled upon me and my brothers: how to be good people, respect others, and make good choices in life.
What has been the most satisfying moment of your baseball career so far? I guess I have three moments that kind of stand out, three championships. I won a state championship in high school, and then my first professional championship in 2012 with Lamigo, and my third championship in '16 with the Rhinos.
What are some expectations you have for yourself this season? Expectations are to compete, do everything I can to help our team and win, and then hopefully at the end of the season we have a championship.
What's the most difficult part of playing overseas? The time away from family...not being with my wife, my son, and my daughter. Being away from them, it's never easy obviously, but it's part of it. Thank goodness for Face Time, I get to see them every day and they get to see me.
What are your impressions of Taiwan? My wife and I, we just really like the culture here. The people are very friendly and very helpful. The country as a whole is just very friendly and welcoming. We really appreciate that and that helps make everybody feel comfortable. We like exploring the country and going out to eat and trying new things. We really have enjoyed our time here and love it.
If you weren't playing baseball, what do you think you would be doing? Growing up my dad was a contractor and built houses from the ground up so I've always had an interest in the housing market and real estate. So moving forward after baseball I have a plan in place to hopefully have a business plan for buying old properties and kind of a buy-and-flip plan.
Do you have a secret talent? I like to cook. Food is something me and my wife really enjoy. Any time we travel to new places we enjoy trying the local food there so cooking is something I've always enjoyed doing. What's your specialty? I have recently been making this slow cooked pulled pork, more of an Italian pulled pork. It's a roast pulled pork with a garlic broccoli rub with sharp provolone on a baguette.
What do you like to do during your free time? My free time is mostly spent with my kids, especially in the off-season when I get done doing what I need to do to prepare for baseball my time is spent with my son and my daughter. We'll go to the park, go on walks, stuff like that. Every once in a while I do go out and play golf with friends.
Favorite place you've played? I don't know if I have a favorite. I think I'm fortunate that baseball has brought me to a lot of different places and has opened my eyes up to different parts of the world. I've seen a lot of things that I'm very grateful for. My short season was played in the pacific Northwest, I was in Oregon and I had never been there so that was in a very beautiful part of the US. I've played in Mexico, Puerto Rico, Taiwan, and South Korea. Being able to see the world and play baseball there and experience different cultures is something very special to me and I'm very grateful. Obviously I love Taiwan, this is my sixth year here.
Favorite food? That's a tough one...I do love food! I guess I'm the hardest critic, having grown up in New York, on pizza and bagels.
Favorite movie? I don't know if I have a favorite movie to be honest. I've been watching a lot of TV shows. A few years ago my wife and I watched How I Met Your Mother. Seinfeld is up there, Breaking Bad was very well done.
Favorite song or band? I would probably say Red Hot Chili Peppers is my favorite band.
Favorite book? Hmm...I did read the Game of Thrones books.
If you could have one superpower, what would it be? I guess like, maybe, teleportation. Go from one place in the world to another. I like traveling, see the world.
What is your dream vacation spot? Right now, I think I would like to be able to do a month in Europe. A couple of countries that stand out to me are Italy, Ireland, and Belgium.
Tea or coffee? Coffee
Rice or noodles? Rice
Mac or PC? Mac
Avengers or Justice League? To be honest, I don't know the difference...(after some explanation)...Justice League.
Hot weather or cold weather? Hot weather
Morning person or night person? I used to be a night person but now with kids, I've turned into a morning person.
Spend time alone or go to a party? Let's see...I like both. There are times I like to be with people and other times when I'd like to have a little time to myself, so you know, maybe a balance of both.
Read a book or go hiking? Go hiking
Run or lift? Lift
Amusement park or museum? Museum
#5 RHP Bryan Woodall
Born: October 24, 1986 -- United States
Height: 185 cm
Weight: 91 kg
Who has been your biggest influence as a baseball player? I would probably say my dad, he had a lot of influence on me when I was younger. Trying to teach me how to play the game and trying to help me out mentally and how to be a better person. So I would definitely say my dad.
How about as a person? I would say my mom and my dad. I was brought up a certain way. My parents were great Christian people and they would put me in spots I should be in and away from spots I shouldn't be in. They kind of let me learn on my own and go as I went and just guide me so I would definitely say my family.
What has been the most satisfying moment of your baseball career so far? That's tough. Honestly for me it's tough to say just one moment. I would say what's been the satisfying for me is just the amount of people I've met along in my 11 years of professional baseball has been unreal. I've gotten to meet a lot of great people and I've made some great friends so for me I would say relationships more than any moment.
What are some expectations you have for yourself this season? I think for me it's going to be about the same. I want to try and go in every single day and try to get better. I feel like if I can do that, I've done it long enough that I have a plan of where I need to be at during certain points and I work every day to get to that spot. I don't ever want to look too far ahead, I don't ever want to look back. I want to just show up and get my work in and try to be the best that I can and at the end of the day I feel like if I do what I'm supposed to do I give my team a chance to win and that's what I want to do, help my team win as many games as I can.
What's the most difficult part of playing overseas? Actually, it hasn't really been difficult. I've been taken care of and treated very well. The only thing I guess is difficult is that you are so far away from home. The setup is great, the people here are amazing so I haven't had a lot of issues with anything outside of just the distance from home.
What are your impressions of Taiwan? When I first got here everyone was so kind and generous so it was pretty easy to adapt. The only thing that's gotten even better the longer I've been here is now I know things I like, I know places I want to go eat, I know things to do, and I've built a lot of good relationships. I have people that I can hang out with and talk to so for me, it's been easier every year. I think that helps on the field and off the field. When you live a comfortable lifestyle with good people around you, you put yourself in a good position to have success and you quit stressing out about the little things.
If you weren't playing baseball, what do you think you would be doing? I'd probably be coaching baseball. I grew up playing sports since I was three, baseball, basketball, and football. I played all the way through high school. I love the game of baseball so when I'm done playing I'll probably be doing something with baseball. Whether that coaching or scouting, I will probably be doing something in baseball.
Do you have a secret talent? I like to golf, it's not a secret talent but a hobby I guess.
What do you like to do during your free time? Honestly, in the off-season when I'm home and have some down time I just play a lot of golf. I spend the first few weeks resting and swinging a lot of golf clubs. I enjoy golf, the game, the challenge that it brings. I'm a very competitive person and so it's one of the most challenging sports I've gotten into.
Favorite place you've played? I would probably say when I was in Arizona, I got to play at Chase. I also went to old Yankee stadium, I didn't play there but I got to take the field there when I was kid and that was pretty cool with all the history. There's a lot of cool places, even the smaller cities, just a lot of parks that are unique in their own ways but because it's the highest level, maybe a big league stadium.
Favorite food? Probably either grilled chicken or fried chicken.
Favorite movie? One of my favorite movies is Public Enemies with Johnny Depp.
Favorite song or band? My music range is so wide open, I listen to everything. Everything!
Favorite book? One of my favorite books is probably The Purpose Driven Life, a Christian related book. It basically gives you a day-by-day reading.
If you could have one superpower, what would it be? Probably the ability to read minds. I'm a big thinker, I like to study the game, I like to analyze people. I just think it's interesting to wonder what other people are thinking when they are in big moments or big spots and when they are playing, I think it would be really cool to get in someone's mind and understand what they are doing. Not only just to hear it but I think you could learn a lot from it.
What is your dream vacation spot? I had one place I always wanted to go to, it was St. Lucia. Celebrities have gone there and a lot of guys that I have played with have gone there and they told me it was the most beautiful place ever. I actually got to go there on my honeymoon. It was unbelievable, probably the most beautiful place I've ever been in my life.
Tea or coffee? Coffee
Rice or noodles? Noodles
Mac or PC? Mac
Avengers or Justice League? Hmm...Avengers.
Hot weather or cold weather? Hot
Morning person or night person? I'm a night owl.
Spend time alone or go to a party? Eh...not a party. I prefer hanging out with my close-knit group of friends. But I also like private time so I guess you could split it down the middle.
Read a book or go hiking? Probably go hiking, I'm more of a visual person. I like to get out and see.
Run or lift? Lift
Amusement park or museum? Amusement park