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BASEBALL/Ex-Yomiuri Giants slugger to throw 1st pitch at Taipei exhibition game

02/29/2024 07:00 PM
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Retired baseball player Lu Ming-tsu (with mic) speaks at a meeting for the Taipei Dome in Taipei on May 30, 2019. CNA file photo
Retired baseball player Lu Ming-tsu (with mic) speaks at a meeting for the Taipei Dome in Taipei on May 30, 2019. CNA file photo

Taipei, Feb. 29 (CNA) Former Yomiuri Giants' slugger Lu Ming-tsu (呂明賜) will throw the first pitch for the Japanese ballclub's exhibition game at the Taipei Dome on March 3, the game's organizers said Wednesday.

Lu and retired pitcher Chiang Chien-ming (姜建銘), both former Giants players, will star in the pitching ceremony before the Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) powerhouse's game with Taiwan's Chinese Professional Baseball League's (CPBL) Rakuten Monkeys.

The game is one of two the Giants will play in Taipei as part of the ballclub's 90th anniversary celebrations, along with a matchup against the CPBL's CTBC Brothers on Saturday.

Lu, 59, is known for beating Chao Shih-chiang (趙士強) in a two-day home run competition in 1987 at Taipei Municipal Baseball Stadium, which led to his joining the Giants.

Around 15,000 spectators packed the stadium, which was demolished to make way for the Taipei Arena, to witness Lu crush 51 homers in 100 swings to outperform Chao, who recorded 43 home runs with the same number of attempts.

"I had no idea how I could win the game before it because Chao Shih-chiang is senior to me and is very good at home runs, but that [mindset] gave me no pressure and helped me try my best," Lu recalled.

That performance impressed the Giants franchise owner Shoriki Toru, who was invited to watch the power show and decided to sign Lu.

Players of the Taipei Highwealth lift head coach Lu Ming-tsu in celebration of winning the fourth edition of the Popcorn League on Jan. 7, 2020 in Taipei. CNA file photo
Players of the Taipei Highwealth lift head coach Lu Ming-tsu in celebration of winning the fourth edition of the Popcorn League on Jan. 7, 2020 in Taipei. CNA file photo

In his NPB debut with the Tokyo Yakult Swallows on June 14, 1988, Lu smashed the second pitch he faced in his first at-bat over the fence.

He went on to homer again in his next two games, eventually ending the season with 16 home runs over 79 games.

However, Lu's performance diminished in the following seasons, leading to his return to Taiwan after playing 342 games over four years in Japan with a .266 batting average.

Asked about the journey, Lu admitted that "I thought I might have been able to stay in Japan a bit longer if I had been smarter."

Lu suggested Taiwanese players take advantage of the exhibition games to learn from Japanese players, believing that they could benefit from their fielding, batting and attitude.

The two games, scheduled to start at 5:05 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, are the first time over 36,000 seats will be opened to spectators at the Taipei Dome, potentially setting a new attendance record for a baseball game in Taiwan.

The current record was set in 2001 when 25,000 fans packed into Chengching Lake Baseball Stadium in Kaohsiung for a 2001 World Cup game between Taiwan and the United States.

Tickets for both games can be purchased on the udnFunLife ticketing platform.

(By Hsieh Ching-wen and Chao Yen-hsiang)

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