For decades, Americans have familiarized themselves with popular innovators of baseball through the joy and excitement they've brought to the game. In China, You-Wen Liang made a difference in the sport in his own right through his commitment and dedication to the game.
The Dublin Leprechauns are honoring the legacy and impact of the late You-Wen Liang next Tuesday (July 18) during the game against the Vallejo Seaweeds at the Fallon Sports Park in Dublin. You-Wen Liang was a pioneering advancer of baseball in his community, and his impact has been felt around the world since he began his journey in China.
"To me, the biggest impacts he made were to introduce the sport to so many kids in China and plant the seed of passion for baseball in their hearts, and most importantly, through coaching, he instilled the spirit of teamwork, perseverance and patience in these kids," said Margaret Liang, You-Wen Liang's daughter and a Dublin resident.
When You-Wen Liang was studying in Japan, his father Fu-Chu Liang made his own impact on baseball. Fu-Chu Liang founded and coached the Panda Baseball Club in Yokohama, Japan, which won the 1942 Yokohama League Championship and was the first All-Chinese baseball team. He quickly became You-Wen Liang's foundational building block in his pursuit of baseball.
"There are many stories that (You-Wen Liang) shared, such as how he had a triple play -- which he described to me more than a thousand times throughout his life -- in the 1948 Little World Series hosted by U.S. Navy back then in Shanghai, which earned him the title of MVP of the year," Margaret Liang told the Weekly.
The team was ultimately broken up in 1949, so Panda players were sent out to other cities to form and coach new teams to promote baseball. Years later, former Panda players returned to lead the National Athletic Tournament where many teams from the Yokohama League came back to play.
You-Wen Liang immigrated to the United States at the age of 58 where he continued organizing and coaching new youth Panda teams. In 2007, You-Wen Liang returned to his hometown of Zhongshan, China after hearing about the potential interest of developing baseball in that community. He sparked a renewed interest in the sport and coached the youth on how to play baseball.
"Despite at that time he could very well enjoy the comfort of his home here in the Bay Area, spending happy time with the newly born grandkids, he chose to dedicate close to 10 years of his time in his hometown as a pure volunteer, living in a small apartment, in a city that's less developed than here in California, riding his bike every day to school to spend time and coach these kids," Margaret Liang said. "That to me, is true dedication, selfless dedication."
As a result of You-Wen Liang's efforts and support, Zhongshan became designated as the official "Baseball Town" by the National Athletic Association. Today, the official slogan for all Panda clubs and teams is "Chase with all might, Fight til the end", which embodies the spirit of the original Panda team from the 1940s, Fu-Chu Liang and You-Wen Liang.
"Baseball is truly his lifetime passion, that even at the age of 82, he still wanted to make a contribution to this sport in the best way he can," Margaret Liang said. "He felt that it was his mission."