Brothers square off halfway around the world
Two brothers who come from 7,884 miles away in Taiwan will find themselves separated by one foot tonight playing minor league baseball on opposing teams in central Pennsylvania.
Talk about a small world.
Jin-De Jhang will be behind the plate at catcher tonight for the Curve, and probably in the second inning, his brother, Yu Chang, will step into the batter’s box for Akron at Peoples Natural Gas Field.
The coolness factor of that is off the charts.
It not only will mark the first time in the franchise’s 19 years that a Curve player and his brother will appear in the same game, the fact that it’s this particular set of brothers makes it even more amazing.
“I think my mom’s pretty happy,” Jhang said with a big smile. “Back home, a lot of people see us play, so I think they’re just happy for us.”
Chang is Akron’s everyday shortstop and the No. 6 prospect in the Cleveland Indians’ organization, according to Baseball America.
Jhang is the Curve’s primary catcher, and he just joined the team four days ago after missing the first month of the season with an oblique injury.
If you’re wondering why the brothers have different last names, well, that’s something else that makes their story unique.
The family’s last name is Chang, and Jin-De’s four brothers all go by that. But when he got his passport at 10 years old, Jin-De said “something went wrong” with the translation from Mandarin Chinese to English.
“You can spell it both ways, C or J,” he said.
Now 24 years old, Jin-De says he has no intention of correcting the mistake with his legal U.S. name.
“It’s kind of cool (to be different),” he said.
The brothers won’t just be different, they could become historic if they both end up making it to the big leagues.
Never before in the history of Major League Baseball have two brothers spelled their last names differently. So if they get there, both will end up having to tell their story over and over again throughout their careers.
The Curve played Akron on Monday, and Chang ripped a pair of doubles in the RubberDucks’ 4-2 win. That contest actually will go down in Curve history as the first featuring two opposing brothers, but since Jin-De didn’t get in the game, tonight’s matchup — as long as Chang does play for Akron — will be the more memorable one.
“Pretty fun to see my brother play today,” Jhang said. “I’ve never seen him play in the season, so just feeling pride for him.”
Chang, who doesn’t speak much English, got a big smile and said it was “just fun” to be in a game against his brother’s team. It won’t, however, change how he plays the game tonight when his brother is behind the plate.
“Just beat him,” Chang said of his goal. “I want to play better (than him).”
The brothers have squared off against each other before, in the Arizona Fall League last year. They last saw each other back home during the offseason.
The Pirates signed Jhang out of Taiwan for $250,000 in 2011, and two years later, the Indians signed his brother for $500,000.
Chang, who’s 21 years old, is in his first season of Double-A and is hitting just .201 for Akron. But he does have nine home runs already in just 134 at-bats, so that kind of power and his slick fielding skills make it easy to see why he’s such a prized prospect.
Jhang has turned himself into a promising prospect by showing he’s a good two-way catcher — solid defensively and above average as a hitter. He hit .292 for high-A Bradenton in 2015, then last year he came up to the Curve and hit .298.
“Left-handed stick, offensive catcher, there’s not too many in the game nowadays, and if they are, they’re making a lot of money in the major leagues,” Curve manager Michael Ryan said.
“He calls a really good game, he’s a big body, thicker body and is a big target for our pitchers. Does a really good job to frame the low pitch, block a throw. Everything a good catcher does, he does. You add a left-handed bat, it’s intriguing. He can hit.”
Jhang said he won’t be distracted catching while his brother is hitting, and there won’t be any kind of little nudge or anything between the two, he added.
“I just do my job, and he just does his job,” Jhang said.
The language barrier made it difficult to truly get a gauge from either brother on what will be going through their minds tonight when Chang steps into the batter’s box with his brother directly behind him.
But just try and imagine: How you would feel in the same situation, against your brother, playing ball halfway around the world on opposing teams?
“It should be fun to be on the same field as your brother,” Ryan said. “A lot of people probably wish that they could, especially at this high of a level. It should be a good experience for them both.”
Cory Giger is the host of “Sports Central” weekdays from 4 to 6 p.m. on ESPN Radio 1430 WVAM.