Found in translation

Batting glove, ball cap and cleats, Tsoi Tak Chi, looks just like every other Coupeville junior varsity baseball player.

There’s one glaring difference, however.

Unlike his teammates, Tsoi never played Little League baseball. Until two months ago the 16-year-old exchange student from Hong Kong never picked up a ball, or watched a game in person or on television for that matter.

“I had heard first base, second base and home run, that’s what I heard, but I don’t know what those are,” Tsoi said.

A fan of basketball and soccer, two very popular Chinese sports, Tsoi took a step into the unknown during March. After arriving in Coupeville too late to play soccer and not feeling he had the talent to play high school basketball in America, Tsoi followed a suggestion from his host parent John Schisel.

“I wanted to do something for a school team...and John said ‘why don’t you try to play baseball’ and I said ‘I haven’t played’ and he said ‘just try it, just try it,’ and I did,” Tsoi said.

Since then, there have been no regrets for the honor student, who picked up on the game just about as fast as one could.

“He does what you tell him to do and he tries hard,” coach Ryan O’Keefe said. “He’s been awesome, it would be nice to have him all the way through.”

Tsoi has received minimal playing time this season, due in part to an ankle injury he suffered a month ago, but when he does get a chance he gives his all. In fact, giving his all on a sprint to first base during practice is how Tsoi got hurt.

“When I hit the ball I just tried and get to the base and I don’t know why, but when I got close to the base I just lied there and I hurt my ankle,” he said.

Since his injury Tsoi has received occasional time in the outfield and has pinch hit late in games. In three at bats this season he doesn’t have any hits, but earned an RBI a couple of weeks ago against Darrington on a groundout fielder’s choice to third.

“For only his first year playing he’s doing really good,” freshman Dana Ekberg said. “I never would have been that good if it was my first time playing.”

With two games remaining, Tsoi still has a goal or two he’d like to conquer on the field.

“I know it’s a really difficult goal, but I want a home run, the second thing is hit on the base,” he said.

Although his on-field contributions have been small, Tsoi has brought other significant contributions to Coupeville’s junior varsity team — in particular a certain light-heartedness among teammates.

“He’s really funny, he tries to teach us Chinese sometimes,” freshman Forrest Nelson said. “He tried to teach us how to say Wolves, but I can’t remember how to say it now.”

Tsoi will head back to China this summer, but his time on the baseball team and his time in the town of Coupeville will not soon be forgotten.

“Coupeville is a really nice place, everyone’s really friendly, really very nice — just a big difference from Hong Kong,” he said.

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