The Miami Marlins kick off their season Tuesday.
And this year there’s a new guy who will be throwing the opening pitch. In January, Taiwanese baseball player Wei-Yin Chen signed a five-year, $80 million contract with the Miami Marlins. And it seems like his entire home country signed on too.
“I try to keep up with all the local papers there in Taiwan,” says Anthony Kang. a Miami-based lawyer who grew up in Taiwan and works primarily with Taiwanese and Chinese clients. “Pretty much on the front page of the sports section of every paper is the story about Chen starting for the Marlins.”
Needless to say, Taiwan love its baseball. Kang’s dad, who still lives on the island, told his employees he’ll be coming in late because of the game (with the 12-hour difference, the game will be airing around breakfast time). And in South Florida, Kang says he’s heard a lot of the local Taiwanese trade organization and social media groups buzzing about the game.
And while the Taiwanese population in South Florida is relatively small, somewhere between 3,000 and 5,000 people, Chen’s residency with the Marlins could have an impact on the attractiveness of South Florida to the Taiwanese, says Philip Wang, director general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Miami.
“I would not be surprised [if] more and more people will come down to Miami to watch the game,” says Wang.
Chen is the second Taiwanese player in the history of U.S. major league baseball to make a start on opening day. The first was Chien-Ming Wang, the opening-day starter for the Yankees in 2008.