In the biggest deal ever for professional sports in the country, former L.A. Dodger Chen Chin-feng signed a deal with the La New Bears club yesterday for a 3-year contract worth NT$10-million per annum.
Chen, the first Taiwanese player to make the U.S. major leagues, decided to return to his homeland at the age of 28 to ink the deal, which was made official at a news conference yesterday.
"Through these negotiations, I have felt the sincerity of the La New club management in wanting me on their team. After consulting with my family on the offer, I have decided to play ball in Taiwan," Chen told the press.
The 6"1' right-handed slugger was signed by the Los Angeles Dodgers organization on January 4, 1999 and has spent 7 seasons in the U.S., mostly in the Dodgers minor league system. He got called up to the major league roster on September 14, 2002, but was used sparingly by the team.
"Seven years ago I signed the contract with the Dodgers organization, it is now almost exactly seven years to that day that I'm signing this deal now. Maybe this is destiny," said the Tainan County native.
The record-breaking deal is a 6-year agreement, with La New guaranteeing Chen at least NT$10 million per year for the first three years, the contract can then be extended for another three years.
La New officials indicated that the pact would be worth much more than the stated figure, due to bonus clauses that will reward the former Dodger for reaching team goals and for individual on-field season performances.
"The other five CPBL teams must now watch out. I am going to help bring the championship title to the La New Bears this year," Chen declared.
The deal is the largest salary ever for a sports figure in Taiwan, and also the very first official multi-year player contract in the 16-year history of the CPBL. It broke the previous year-salary record of NT$6 million handed to both Kuo Yuan-chi and Kuo-Lee Chien-fu, two star pitchers who returned from successful seasons in Japan's pro league in the 1990s.
La New team manager Hong Yi-chung was quick to protect his club's most important asset, and asked fans and the media not to give Chen too much pressure in his first season back in Taiwan.
"Chen will need some time to adjust to local pitching and playing conditions here at home. He had been away for 7 years and has never seen these Taiwanese pitchers. We will work with him to help him make the necessary adjustments, and we hope the fans can be patient with us," said the La New skipper.
Hong undoubtedly believes the former Dodger player will have a major impact on the league, "Chen coming back home is not just good for our club, but will also raise the playing standards for the CPBL and for Taiwan baseball at all levels.