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The Brightest, Anonymous Superstar: My Conversation with Tzu-Wei Lin

To Twins fans, he’s the guy from the Boston Red Sox. To Red Sox fans, he was the Swiss Army knife who couldn’t find a permanent home on the diamond, despite being touted as their 16th-best prospect. To Taiwan, Tzu-Wei Lin is one of the most valued baseball players in history.In 2012, the “Tzunami” received the largest signing bonus for a Taiwanese position player in history from the Red Sox and was touted as the second “Linsanity” after Jeremy Lin. The past decade has been a challenging journey for Lin, with many ups and downs. I had the privilege of spending an afternoon hearing his story and chatting with Lin, one of the most lauded and forgotten players in baseball.


Patience is a Virtue


When I arrived at the ballpark, Tzu-Wei Lin was in the on-deck circle, quietly waiting for Travis Blankenhorn to complete his home run derby. At a slight 5’9", Lin is not built like his teammate, and this is reflective in his home run statistics (he hit one in four years). However, despite his lack of power, Lin showed his patience in BP, hitting what would’ve been several screaming singles up the middle.


Download attachment: Tzu-Wei Lin 2.jpg


Patience is a word that Lin has come to know very well. At age 16, Lin was named the Most Valuable Player, Leading Batter, and had the most runs scored in the 2010 World Junior Baseball Championship. He was also named to the All-Tournament team as the best third baseman, where he was joined by Francisco Lindor and Michael Lorenzen. Although he had to turn down a contract with the Yankees after the tournament due to a rule by the Chinese Taipei Baseball Association to complete his schooling or be banned for life, his patience paid off two years later, when he signed a $2.05M signing bonus with the Red Sox.


During the two years between his contracts, Lin started to put in work to prepare for a career in the MLB. He mentioned that his coach recommended that in order to elongate his longevity in America, he needed to become the most valuable version of himself by becoming the most versatile version of himself. Lin started by learning how to catch, one of the most valuable and difficult positions in baseball, and made his way to each base and outfield position. When asked what his favorite was, Lin didn’t hesitate before saying “shortstop”, the first position he ever learned. Unfortunately, he did not enjoy his only pitching appearance in the majors, when he gave up three runs in one inning.


Coming to America


There are many factors that aren’t considered when a baseball player immigrates to the United States. The biggest is that English is likely not your first language. In Lin’s case, he knew “nothing at all, except hello and goodbye”. Therefore, during the day, Lin grinded in the minor leagues. At night, Lin grinded in ESL courses with several teammates. Given how few members of the clubhouse spoke Mandarin, Lin made it a personal goal to be able to converse in English independently as quickly as possible. In two years, Lin advanced to Class A Greenville Drive and stopped using his interpreter.


Flash forward to the present day, where Lin is nervously approaching me for his interview. Although Lin now conducts his interviews solely in English, there are still big challenges that come with using your second language. Lin mentions that he’s “rarely asked for a player interview” and that he’s feeling “rather nervous”. Therefore, we conducted the entire interview in Mandarin, my second language, so that I can get a better understanding of what it’s like for a player to come from another country and carry the expectation of using this new language. And let me just say, it was one of the hardest things I’ve done. Thankfully, Lin graciously and patiently waited for me to express my questions in my questionable at-best Mandarin.


Beyond the Red Sox


When discussing his career with the Red Sox, Lin was grateful for his experiences. Although the end of his career in Boston was difficult, Lin is optimistic. Both 16-year old Lin and the present day 26-year old know the importance of patience and opportunity in the MLB. Lin told me that you’ll never find him arguing with an umpire, because every at bat is crucial to him. He cannot risk the chance of getting thrown out of a game and missing an opportunity to make a difference for his team.


Being at the ballpark and playing the game that he loves is his biggest goal. He’s willing to wait for any opportunity to come his way. In the meantime, fans can find him at CHS Field day after day, staying warm and ready in case the Twins need him at Target Field.


In Lin, I see a humble, down-to-earth human, who despite numerous adversities after being touted as the next biggest thing, who just wants to play the game he’s spent his whole life loving. After the interview, he thanked me for my time and for wanting to share his story. Although I’m uncertain of the future, it’s impossible to not root for a player like Tzu-Wei Lin, the Tzunami.


Download attachment: Tzu-Wei Lin.jpeg


If you’d like to learn more about his Lin and his statistics, check out this article by Twins Daily’s Lucas Seehafer PT. In the meantime, stop by CHS Field and check out the Twins' taxi squad.



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Ranabanena, love your article and was impressed by your ability and courage to do the interview in Mandarin. Lin is one of the invitees that I've been cheering for. Great to know some of his history and can't wait to see the Tsunami impact the Twins

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Thanks for sharing - found this link on Twitter. It's great when people interview in their native language, I think that more reporters should learn Spanish and give it a try with Latino players....just spend a day in their shoes trying to speak a new language and they'll have a whole new level of respect.

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Take it from a Red Sox fan- Lin CAN do it! He can hit when given a chance, and when he wasn’t playing 8 different positions with the Sox, he was a very good infielder-great range! He could be a star on this team.

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