Players from Japan and Taiwan 'feel the passion' for game with Geneva Red Wings and Newark Pilots
Every player in the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League has dream. Some may dream of going pro, others may dream of simply having fun over the summer.
For some players, though, those dreams span oceans.
“My dream is to play baseball in America,” says Yohei Ishiyama, in somewhat broken English.
That dream is coming true as the Japanese outfielder out of Nihon University is playing for the Geneva Red Wings.
Not too far away, three players from another Asian location, Taiwan, are playing for the Newark Pilots. They are pitcher Peng-Fei Wang, catcher Po-Chuan Pan, and outfielder Wei-Chi Chen.
Wang and Chen go to Vanung, Pan goes to Fu Jen Catholic. This actually isn't Pan's first time playing in America, as he played for the Taiwanese representative at the 2009 Little League World Series, where they lost to California in the finals.
Despite the stereotype that baseball players become more jaded and less fun as they get older, though, Pan still feels and sees the love of the game in the PGCBL.
“There's no difference for the passion, energy and love of baseball that play between the Little League World Series or here,” he says through an interpreter. “(I) can feel the passion, the passion and the enthusiasm of the players here.”
It is a common refrain from the Asian players of the PGCBL. Players in the league seem to be less tense and more willing to enjoy the game than in Asia, and the coaches tend to give them more of a free reign.
“The coach lets (us) know to enjoy the games,” says Peng-Fei Wen, “(We) are really comfortable playing in this league.”
Don't go thinking that this is a vacation, though. The players also have a goal.
“(I) want to be able to prove (myself) and show the baseball to the audience and prove that there are some good players around the world and in Taiwan,” says Wei-Chi Chen.
While the Taiwanese players who follow in the footsteps of a pair who played for Newark in 2016 use a translator, Ishiyama does not. Which is remarkable, since according to teammate Alex Bellardini he barely knew any English when got to Geneva.
Now, though, he is able to speak well enough that the translation app on Bellardini's phone wasn't even needed. While his English is a bit broken, Yohei is able to talk about his love for hamburgers and playing jokes with teammates, and also on the main differences between Japan and American baseball.
In Japan, he says, college baseball is mostly small-ball without as many home runs, and full of tournaments that bring lots of stress.
But in America?
“American baseball is everything fun.”
NOTES (Stats as of July 10): The Geneva Red Wings are currently 18-15, 8.5 games behind Jamestown for the West Division lead ... Newark's rough season continues, as it sits at 10-24 with one of the worst records in the league ... The Asians aren't the only foreign players in the PGCBL, as the league includes several Canadians as well as Newark's Jorge Leon (born in Mexico City) ... two PGCBL players currently have batting averages of .400 or better, both on Amsterdam: Liam Wilson (.417) and John Valente (.413).