TAICHUNG, TAIWAN – Yang Dai-kang, who is better known as Daikan Yoh in Japan, has already become a star player for the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, but the fame swells when he puts on the Taiwan national team jersey for the nation’s citizens.
Yoh, who has represented the nation since he was a boy, surely acknowledges the high expectations of his compatriots in Taiwan during the ongoing Premier 12.
But perhaps a little unexpectedly, he said that he feels more pressure when he’s playing for the Fighters.
“This is a place that a lot of good players assemble from around the world,” Yoh said in fluent Japanese after Taiwan’s practice at Taichung Intercontinental Stadium on Friday. “And I try to absorb as much as I can from them on the international stage. This is an opportunity to study, and hopefully, I can utilize these experiences for my baseball career going forward.”
Through Thursday, Taiwan was 1-2 in the preliminary round of the championship and its chances of advancing to the eight-team quarterfinals will depend on the remainder of the round. Nevertheless, Yoh said that the team’s mood at the team has been positive.
“We are in a good mood,” said Yoh, the MVP of the first round in Taichung during the 2013 World Baseball Classic. “In competitions, somebody has to win and somebody has to lose. We’ll just keep playing in a positive manner.”
And of course, Yoh doesn’t want to exit the tournament early.
“We just need to win by any means, so we can advance to the next round,” he said.
In a sense, Yoh is used to the Fighters’ lively team atmosphere. He said that the older players on the Pacific League club create that upbeat vibe, which makes it easier for the younger ones to perform to their full abilities, and it’s the same on the Taiwan national team.
“We have our own veteran players and they make a good mood for us,” Yoh said.
Asked if he’s one of the veterans who carry that role, Yoh, 28, denied it.
“Me, I’m the type of a player that tries to focus about myself once I get in international tournaments,” he said with a smile. “Our older players take care of the roles, and we’re appreciating it.”
Yoh, who was drafted by the Fighters in 2005 after he attended a Fukuoka high school, said that he’s learned a lot playing for the Hokkaido club.
“Do what you are supposed to do,” said Yoh, a career .270 hitter in the NPB. “That’s one of the things I’ve learned. Preparation is part of it. Since I’ve turned pro, I’ve been taught that. And now I would like to convey that to the Taiwanese players.”
Like Yoh, meanwhile, Chen Kuan-yu plays in Japan. But unlike Yoh, the 25-year-old is in the midst of working to establish his name both in the NPB and the Premier 12.
Chen, a left-handed pitcher for the Chiba Lotte Marines, was previously a part of the Yokohama BayStars mound corps. He’s been an important piece for a pitching staff that’s led by former Seibu Lions starting pitcher Kuo Tai-yuan in the Premier 12.
In fact, Chen got the nod to start Taiwan’s first tourney game against the Netherlands on Monday, when his team fell lost 7-4. Chen lasted two innings, giving up four runs. He then pitched in middle relief in Thursday’s game against Canada.
Chen admitted that he’s felt pressure pitching in this tournament. But the pressure wasn’t the biggest he’s ever had on his shoulders.
“When I was about to get my first win as a pro (in Japan), I was even more worried,” said Chen, who added that he has made big strides pitching in Japan.
Chen, who had represented Taiwan in the World University Baseball Championship and Asian Games in ’10, said that he embraces the opportunity to play at the Premier 12 because he can gain experience by facing players from around the globe, not just Taiwan and Japan.
Chen said with a bitter smile that even when he tosses a low outside fastball that he thinks he threw perfectly, for example, he still allows opposing hitters to make contact in the tournament.
“The foreigners have longer arms and they can make contact,” said Chen, who went 5-4 with a 3.53 ERA for the Marines in ’15. “I was surprised by that.”
Chen thought that the Taiwanese team has done well offensively and now its pitching corps, including himself, have to step up so they will have a chance to advance deeper in the tournament. He added that in order to achieve that the players needs to possess a tough mind-set.
“Yes, I want to pitch more,” Chen said, when asked if he hopes to get to the semifinal round at Tokyo Dome, where he has some familiarity.
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