I-Chung Hong

From BR Bullpen

I-Chung Hong (洪一中)

  • Bats Right, Throws Right
  • Height 5' 8", Weight 174 lb.

I-Chung Hong was a top catcher in the first decade of professional baseball in Taiwan. He had previously played in the Olympics for Taiwan. After retiring as a player, he has been a coach and manager both in Taiwan and in international competitions, bringing him back to the Olympics.

Hong spent 1983-1985 with the Taiwan Air Force, then played for the amateur Brothers Hotel team from 1985-1989. He appeared for Taiwan's national team in the 1988 Olympics and 1988 Baseball World Cup (.172/.250/.207 as their starting catcher, throwing out 5 of 8 attempted base-stealers).

When the Chinese Professional Baseball League was formed in 1990, Hong debuted with the Brother Elephants, hitting .285/.338/.367. In 1991, he batted .250/.273/.362. The next season, he produced at a .249/.344/.352 rate and made the Best Nine at catcher. In 1993, his batting line was .259/.298/.333 and won a Gold Glove. That year, he hit the 1,000th home run in CPBL history. He also won the Taiwan Series Most Valuable Player Award for his post-season heroics.

Hong hit .313/.343/.437 in 1994 and won both a Gold Glove and the Best Nine award. In 1995, he batted .250/.302/.378 and followed with a .261/.318/.348 campaign in 1996, when he won his third Gold Glove.

When the Taiwan Major League formed to rival the CPBL in 1997, Hong jumped to the Kaoping Fala and hit .222/.261/.306 while claiming another Gold Glove. In 1998, he improved to .302/.348/.396 and won a Gold Glove while making the Best Nine for the 4th time in the first 9 seasons of Taiwanese professional baseball. He was 8th in the TML in average but led all Taiwan natives.

In 1999, Hong batted .280/.316/.364 and was named to the Best Nine once again. With professionals now allowed in international competitions, he returned to the Taiwan national team after a 11-year absence, appearing in the 1999 Asian Championship.

At age 39, Hong had a career year for the 2000 Fala. He hit .357/.408/.452, finishing second in the TML in average, .005 behind Manny Estrada. He made the Best Nine for the 6th time and won his 6th Gold Glove as well. In 2001, the veteran fell to .253/.294/.327 and won his last Gold Glove. He played for Taiwan in the 2001 Baseball World Cup as the starting catcher; the old-timer batted .238/.292/.333, an improvement on his first World Cup of 13 years prior.

Hong batted .277/.333/.340 in 2002, his final season as a player, and made the Best Nine for the 7th time. He represented Taiwan in the 2002 Asian Games. After working as a broadcaster in 2003, he coached for Taiwan's national team in the 2003 Baseball World Cup.

In 2004, Hong became a coach for the La New Bears but he took over the managerial reins on June 25. He was a coach for Taiwan in the 2006 World Baseball Classic; that summer, he led the Bears to a Taiwan Series title. He won Manager of the Year honors. After leading them to a loss in a 7-game effort in the 2007 Taiwan Series, he coached in the 2007 Baseball World Cup. He became head coach of Taiwan's national team for the 2008 Final Olympic Qualification Tournament and continued in that role for the 2008 Olympics.

After the Olympics, Hong was fired as head coach of the national team. Hong had come under fire for stating that amateur players signed by MLB teams for under $200,000 should not be allowed into the CPBL once their US careers end. Hong was replaced by Chih-Hsien Yeh. He became manager of the Lamigo Monkeys in 2011 and led them to the 2012 Taiwan Series, 2014 Taiwan Series and 2015 Taiwan Series titles. He became the second skipper to lead four Taiwan Series titlists, following Wen-Sheng Liu. He would add additional titles in 2017 and 2018.