Orioles' Chen talks baseball, culture and work ethic in visit to Towson High

A day after pitcherWei-Yin Chenimproved to 3-0 with 7-2/3 strong innings in the Orioles' home-run-filled 6-5 win over Texas on Thursday afternoon, the Taiwanese left-hander hit a home run of his own at a Friday appearance at Towson High School.

"I've been an Orioles fan for a long time," said Yuri Chia, a 10th-grader at Towson High School whose parents are both of Taiwanese descent. "This is a once in a lifetime opportunity."

Chen spent about 30 minutes fielding questions from a gathering that including all four levels of Towson High School's Chinese classes, as well as members of the school's baseball team and a group of Towson University students.

For some questions during the event, which was closed to the public and the media, Chen used a translator, but he also fielded several questions from the Chinese students.

Towson High Principal Jane Barranger said after the event that the interaction was good for the students, even if they were a bit shy.

"More interactions like that really help with self confidence in the long run," she said. "Even if you attempt and try to learn a language of a country, it really is perceived positively."

Isis Wang, a sophomore at Towson University and recently-elected president of the university's Chinese Culture Appreciation club, enjoyed the event for different reasons.

She was born in Taiwan, and was refreshed to hear her native tongue spoken in America. She used to speak a similar dialect, but after moving to America, had to change and speak traditional mandarin Chinese because that's what everyone else spoke.

Wang said after the event that she took heart in Chen's inspirational message of perseverance and courage.

Other than his wife, who recently arrived in Baltimore, Chen told the group that he knew no one in Baltimore, but enjoyed being in new places and challenging himself to meet new people.

The school visit was organized by Yuri's mother, Ingrid Wu, who is a professor at Towson University and a Towson High alumna. With the university's exams and the seniors at Towson High taking their AP exams — plus team restrictions on public appearances the day of or before a pitcher starts — Wu said it was difficult to arrange the schedules of all involved to make Friday happen.

"It took a whole semester to organize this, but they were very cooperative," she said.

Participation from students at the event varied depending on their comfort with the language.

Yuri, who was recently elected president of the Chinese Honor Society at Towson High, asked Chen if any teams he's faced so far stood out as particularly tough. (He said Chen answered diplomatically that everyone was good and he had to treat everyone as equally tough.).

Steve McNamee, a junior from West Towson who is in Chinese II, said he didn't understand much of what Chen was saying and was going to ask how old he was in Chinese, but decided against it.

And though they needed the translator as much as anyone, members of the school's baseball team relished the opportunity to have an audience with the Orioles pitcher as well.

Aaron Steinberg, a junior on the team and a resident of Stoneleigh, said he enjoyed the event because it showed a commitment on the part of both Chen and the Orioles to embrace fans in the community.

"The fans want to be involved with the players, and it upsets me when they ignore you because we're here to support them," he said.

Kyle Kershner, a junior from Wiltondale, has met ballplayers before, but especially enjoyed seeing Chen and the Chinese students interacting in Chen's native language.

"I thought it was pretty cool how the students and him shared a bond, being able to speak face-to-face," Kershner said.

After the question-and-answer session was through, Chen took time to sign autographs for the students.

"He was a really nice person," Barranger said of the Orioles star. "The kids were appreciative, and very receptive."

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