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BASEBALL/Hong I-chung 1st CPBL manager to mark 1,000 wins

05/16/2024 08:33 PM
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TSG Hawks Manager Hong I-chung. CNA photo May 15, 2023
TSG Hawks Manager Hong I-chung. CNA photo May 15, 2023

Taipei, May 16 (CNA) Hong I-chung (洪一中) became the first manager to log 1,000 wins in Taiwan's pro baseball history on Wednesday following the TSG Hawks' 5-0 victory over the Rakuten Monkeys in Taoyuan.

The shutout win represented the Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL) expansion team's ninth triumph in their first season in the major league, mainly on the back of Nick Margevicius's outing of seven scoreless innings.

The American left-handed pitcher was named the MVP of the game, but it was Huang who stole the spotlight after he reached the historic milestone in front of the 6,084 fans in attendance at the Rakuten Taoyuan Baseball Stadium.

"It's serendipity for real. After such a long wait, [I] finally took my 1,000th win at this stadium in Taoyuan. I want to use this chance to say 'thank you' to the fans here, many of whom I think have come to watch games when I led the team before," said Hong, who has logged 332 wins at the park, the most among all venues.

The win may have been a late birthday gift for Hong, who turned 63 on Tuesday. However, the Hawks lost to the Monkeys 5-1 that day.

Now sitting at the rock bottom of the six-team league, the Hawks are the first team to suffer 20 losses in 2024, but Hong, who reached the milestone in his 18th season as manager, believes the team has a bright future given the players' perseverance.

"The record may not be good right now, but they keep coming to the park early and grinding hard. It's just the beginning for us, so I hope fans will keep cheering for the TSG. They have a promising future and great potential, [I believe] they will get better."

The TSG Hawks' celebrations after Wednesday's game. CNA photo May 15, 2024
The TSG Hawks' celebrations after Wednesday's game. CNA photo May 15, 2024

Hong joined the Fubon Guardians in 2020 on a three-year deal before the TSG signed Hong for three years in early 2023. General manager Liu Dong-yang (劉東洋) said Hong would "definitely serve as manager for the first two years," while "it depends" for the third year.

Hong made his managerial debut in 2004 with the La New Bears (renamed as Lamigo Monkeys during 2011-19) and served as their manager most of the time -- except in 2010 -- before Rakuten took over the franchise in late 2019.

During his stint with the franchise, Hong snagged his first CPBL championship title as manager in 2006 with the Bears and led the Monkeys to six championships in eight years, including a back-to-back-to-back title run from 2017-19.

Hong's bond with the home team was affirmed by the presence of some Monkeys players in the dugout after the game.

Instead of leaving the field right after the game, Lin Hung-yu (林泓育), Chu Yu-hsien (朱育賢), and Lin Chen-fei (林承飛) stayed to watch the TSG celebrate Hong's feat and gave their former manager a big hug when he walked to the Monkeys' dugout.

Monkeys catcher Lin Hung-yu (right) congratulates Hong I-chung in front of the team's dugout after the game. CNA photo May 15, 2024
Monkeys catcher Lin Hung-yu (right) congratulates Hong I-chung in front of the team's dugout after the game. CNA photo May 15, 2024

The journey of nearly two decades saw Hong change from a "harsh" manager, as the Monkey's third baseman Liang Chia-jung (梁家榮) described, to someone who says he just "goes with the flow."

Tseng Tzu-yu (曾子祐), who hit his first career home run on Wednesday, said Hong is a great manager who has not put pressure on the players despite the team's recent struggle. "Let's go get your 2,000th win together," Tseng said in a post-game interview.

Despite his experience, Hong said he never stops learning as time changes. "In the minor leagues last year, when I led a team full of inexperienced new faces, I always thought of whether I did things right that day every day when I got home."

Hong I-chung. CNA photo May 15, 2024
Hong I-chung. CNA photo May 15, 2024

As of Wednesday, Hong has recorded 1,000 wins and 864 losses as a manager, by far the most wins for a manager in the history of Taiwan's professional baseball.

The late manager Hsu Sheng-ming (徐生明) is second after Hong with 715 wins, 610 in the CPBL and 105 in the Taiwan Major League Professional Baseball (1996-2003).

In third is Wei Chuan Dragons' manager Yeh Chun-chang (葉君璋), who bagged his 353rd win as a manager following the defending champions' 5-2 victory over the CTBC Brothers in Taichung.

(By Yang Chi-fang and Chao Yen-hsiang)

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Fans cheer for the Hawks during Wednesday's game. CNA photo May 15, 2024
Fans cheer for the Hawks during Wednesday's game. CNA photo May 15, 2024
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