Lyle Lin is over 7,000 miles from his hometown of Taipei, Taiwan, but regardless of what part of the world he’s in, the Arizona State catcher finds a home on the baseball diamond.
Four years ago, Lin set off on a life-changing journey, flying across the Pacific Ocean to the United States.
“I left my hometown when I was 15 to come over here to play. I’m thankful for that,” Lin said during Monday’s practice. “Just getting to learn the language, and baseball and everything. I think it’s awesome here, and I love it here, too.”
In pursuit of a baseball career, Lin left behind his family, including his father Min Yu and mother Alison, whom he calls his biggest support. He said the transition wasn’t easy, but is fully acclimated to living stateside now.
“It’s fun,” Lin said. “It’s tough when I was (a) young age, but now I’m used to it, and I enjoy everything now.”
Some might even say Lin’s living the American dream after riding a phenomenal high school career at JSerra Catholic (Calif.) before signing with the Sun Devils last year, bypassing an opportunity to make the immediate jump to the Major Leagues in the process — Lin became the first-ever Taiwanese player selected at the MLB Draft when the Seattle Mariners chose him in the 16th round (477th overall) of the 2016 draft, per The China Post.
“It’s definitely my honor,” Lin says of his selection, “I didn’t think I’d do that. I just play my ball, and then things happen.”
Lin says he’s been playing baseball since he was really young. That experience protruded itself during his high school days, and was evident again during his first collegiate contests.
In ASU’s Opening Day, doubleheader sweep of Northwestern on Friday, Lin finished a combined 4-for-9 (.444), tallying a double and two RBIs.
He collected two hits in each game, and became the first true freshman since 2009 to do so during an ASU season opener.
Last time a true freshman had two hits in season opener for @asu_baseball - Zack MacPhee, 2009.— Jeremy Hawkes (@JeremyHawkes) February 17, 2017
Lyle Lin 2-for-2, RBI today.
First collegiate start ✔️— Sun Devil Baseball (@ASU_Baseball) February 17, 2017
First collegiate hit ✔️
First Sun Devil RBI of the season ✔️#Devils up 2-0 B4https://t.co/a2K3l6JzZG
Lin said he felt more excited than nervous during his first live at-bats at Phoenix Municipal Stadium, but added he remained focused on the task at hand.
“Just take a deep breathe, and then just hit it forward, put the ball in play, and just trust myself and play hard (sic),” Lin said of his performance. “I feel awesome. For sure, there’s pressure in starting opening day, I mean, (but I feel) just awesome.”
Despite primarily playing catcher, head coach Tracy Smith started Lin at first base during ASU’s first game.
The 6-foot-1, 201-pounder had said during the week that playing in the field doesn’t really bother him.
“I just play,” he said Monday. “Baseball's my favorite sport, so I just play the sport I love. Whatever Skip (Tracy Smith) give[s] to me, give[s] me a position to play, I just play it as hard as I can.”
Smith said he felt Lin’s opening day performance was further proof of his talent.
“You saw for yourself why we’re high on Lyle Lin. Kid’s a good baseball player,” the third-year coach said Friday night.
However, for as talented a prospect Lin may be, he supplements it with humility, gratitude, and a drive to be great.
Lin understands the history that resonates with Sun Devil baseball and wants to be considered among the legends who donned the maroon and gold before him.
“You’ve got Barry Bonds, Dustin Pedroia — everyone here. I’m just trying to look up to them. And it’s probably another reason I (chose to) come to ASU, just because here, it’s such a great environment here, and then (a) great school, and then (a) great coaching staff here, so I love it here,” he said.
Lin added his relationships with teammates makes his time here more enjoyable, too. As a member of ASU’s top-rated signing class, the competition for playing time hasn’t severed the locker room by any means.
“I love my teammates,” he said Monday. “They’re just like brother-from-'nother-mother, you know? We’re just really close friends, and we hang out, and we play baseball.”
The camaraderie enables Lin to better dial in on his play. He’s fully adopted and embraced the team culture.
“Just play ASU baseball, and play hard, and then just put the ball in play,” Lin said of his mentality.
If Friday was any indicator, success is imminent for Lin. But, whether it’s true or not, he remains humble through it all, reveling in his chance to play.
“Just coming to a different country and play ball here... I’m just really grateful and thankful for everything,” Lin says.