Baseball / Japanese Baseball

Fighters complete deal with Taiwanese slugger Wang Po-jung

Kyodo

The Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters finalized their deal for one of the biggest stars of Taiwanese baseball on Wednesday, signing a three-year contract with outfielder Wang Po-jung in Taipei.

A two-time Chinese Professional Baseball League batting champion for the Lamigo Monkeys, the 25-year-old Wang is the first player to make the jump from Taiwan to Japan via the posting system.

In joining Nippon Ham in the Pacific League, he follows in the footsteps of fellow Taiwanese outfielder Daikan Yoh, who started his Nippon Professional Baseball career with the Fighters before moving to the Yomiuri Giants in the Central League.

While Wang will reportedly receive an estimated ¥400 million (about $3.54 million) plus incentives in the three-year deal, Lamigo and Nippon Ham declined to reveal the posting fee.

Fighters’ president Kenso Takeda said Hokkaido’s hot springs and delicious food help to draw an average of 600,000 Taiwanese visitors to the prefecture each year, but with a new stadium planned for 2023, he hopes baseball will become another major attraction.

Nippon Ham manager Hideki Kuriyama said he understood the loss of Wang would be a major blow to Lamigo but told fans to rest assured the star would be in good hands.

Describing himself as “a young man from (the southern Taiwan county of) Pintung who loves baseball,” Wang thanked Lamigo for nurturing him as a player and the Fighters for signing him.

“I’ll do my utmost to help the team win,” he said.

Asked whether he had set his sights on emulating former Fighters and now Los Angeles Angels star Shohei Ohtani in making the jump to the majors, Wang said he hoped to eventually do so but would “let nature take its course.”

Wang, who debuted for Lamigo in 2015, had a .407 batting average last season. In his second year with the club, he had 200 hits with a .414 batting average. He had 31 home runs and 101 RBIs the following season.

After earning Wang’s negotiating rights from Lamigo, the Fighters had 30 days to reach an agreement with the player.

Wang will wear No. 99 for the Fighters, which he picked to symbolize his birthday, Sept. 9.

Lamigo general manager Justin Liu said the team will reserve Wang’s No. 9 jersey in case he ever returns.