Bruce Chen stood on the bullpen mounds with the other Cleveland Indians pitchers Wednesday, and was overcome with a strange sensation that pierced his body.
“I haven’t felt like this in two years,’’ he said. “I didn’t know how much I missed the competition until now. It’s a feeling like no other.’’
It was the last time Chen pitched in the big leagues, retiring after 17 years in the major leagues.
Now, here he is, working for the Cleveland Indians as a culture development coordinator, and he found himself throwing again as if he’s back in the big leagues.
Only this time, it’s different.
Chen, 39, will be pitching for Team China in the World Baseball Classic, and when the tournament ends, he’ll put his glove and spikes away, returning to his real job.
“It’s a big opportunity for me to represent my heritage, represent the Cleveland Indians,’’ Chen said, “and represent Major League Baseball. I know there’s a lot of interest in China in baseball. I’m going to try to do my best, and hopefully pull off an upset.’’
Chen, who was raised in Panama and has never been to China, received a call in early December from the Chinese team asking whether he would be interested in playing for the WBC team. Chen, whose grandparents were born in China, talked to his wife and three daughters. He discussed it with his parents. Everyone was thrilled.
“I’m just trying to do it one more time so my family can see me, so my kids can see me pitch one more time,’’ Chen says. “I wanted to do it to honor my grandparents and represent my heritage. I’m giving it my all, because I know how important it is for Team China to have a good showing at the WBC.’’
Yet, no matter what transpires at the WBC, and after throwing bullpen sessions since January, Chen says, there are absolutely no plans for a comeback.
And he’ll have a job waiting him when he returns.
“I think it’s pretty cool he’s doing this,’’ Cleveland manager Terry Francona said. “I think it’s great.’’
This article was republished with permission from the original publisher, USA Today. Follow Bob Nightengale on Twitter and Facebook.