Yung-Chi Chen: From Taiwan to Everett

One of the most intriguing prospects on the Everett Aqua Sox roster this summer is that of Yung-Chi Chen, an infielder signed out of Taiwan. InsidethePark's Jamie Cobb wasted little time in learning more about the versatile 20-year-old, talking to him over Everett's opening homestand. See what Chen had to say about his adjustment to playing ball in America in this InsidethePark exclusive.

Seattle Mariners fans are familiar with the organization's ties to the Far East, especially Japan and Korea; however, they can add a new country to the list of Mariner imports, Taiwan.

Yung-Chi Chen, a native of Kaohsiung County, Taiwan, is just the second Taiwanese player to sign with the Mariners. Signed as a non-drafted free agent this past January, Chen already appears comfortable in his new surroundings.

The 20-year-old infielder showed he can do it all this past weekend against Vancouver, the Oakland Athletics single-A affiliate, playing both second and third base in the field while batting .357. He also stole a base and drove in five runs, two of which came on a towering home run to deep left-center-field on Saturday. The blast seemed to catch everyone by surprise, having come from Chen's 5-foot-11, 170-pound frame.

"Based on the count, I was hoping to get a hit," Chen said through his interpreter, Peter Liu. "I got a good pitch to hit, and I hit it well."

Although Chen batted third in the Aqua Sox lineup during the weekend series, manager Pedro Grifol didn't place him there because of his long-ball potential.

"Like I said from the beginning of the season, we're gonna run the bases and play fundamental baseball," said the second-year skipper. "If the power comes, the power comes, but we're going to play the game the right way."

Chen, a utility infielder with the Taiwan National Sports Academy prior to signing with the Mariners, is accustomed to playing second, third and shortstop, so the early season shuffle didn't hurt his abilities in the field.

"I am very comfortable at all three positions," Chen said. "Before I came here I was I utility infielder, it doesn't really matter which position I play."

This is the attitude that Grifol likes to see out of his players, especially when they will be asked to play several positions at this level before settling into a position that best fits the individual and organization.

"Those three guys (Chen, Asdrubal Cabrera and Oswaldo Navarro) are going to play all over the infield," Grifol said. "It's too long of a road for us to say where they're going to end up."

Chen traveled a long road to get here, working daily to prepare himself for his dream of moving to America to play professional baseball. The youngest of three in his family, coming to America was something that he always saw as his goal.

"Ever since high school I wanted to play baseball in the United States," Chen said." "It was a lot of hard work and difficulty, but you have to go through that to be the caliber of player I want to be."

Following the footsteps of other Asian players making the jump to the profession ranks of America, Chen hopes his time in the United States will help expose the talent in Taiwan, which to this point has had a relatively small amount of players get noticed by teams from the major leagues.

"There are a lot of good players in Taiwan that have not been exposed," said Chen. "Hopefully I'll do well and other players can follow."

Still learning the language and the game, the often-smiling Chen seems comfortable in his new environment and, after his weekend performance, the Mariners have to like what they see.

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