Between 2011, and 2015, Bruce Billings Jr. took to the mound for a host of teams stateside and here in Taiwan.
The Colorado Rockies, Oakland Athletics, New York Yankees, LA Dodgers and Washington Nationals all appear on his pitching resume.
As do the Uni-President Lions and the Fubon Guardians here in Taiwan’s CPBL.
We had a chance to throw a few questions at the former pitcher now coaching in the Philadelphia Phillies organisation.
Here’s how he answered.
How would Bruce Billings Jr. describe himself in his own words.
I am just doing the best with what I was given. I hope at the end of my life that all my loved ones know that I did everything to honor them, and God above.
You had an interesting career between 2011 and 2015 in the US – what were the highlights you felt during that time?
Getting to the major leagues after a lifelong dream and many years in the minor leagues.
After being sent down to the minors after my first call up I continued to play like every game was a gift.
A few more years in the minors and I got another chance to go back up with the (New York) Yankees.
Those years in between those two appearances I played some of my best baseball in AAA with the (Oakland) A’s and made lifelong friends. I enjoyed the game while still grinding to make it back to the MLB.
How about the opposite end of the scale – lowlights?
Having a feeling on the mound in Yankee Stadium that I may never get another shot to play in the big leagues after giving up a home run to my friend Colin Cowgill with the Angels.
I actually pitched well after that because I felt like I had nothing to lose (haha!)
And then in 2016 you came over here to Taiwan and joined the Lions in Tainan. How did that come about?
I had a freak accident while playing in the Dominican Winter League, ran my shoulder into a doorframe.
The next time I pitched, I couldn’t get my shoulder loose while warming up.
When I went in to pitch and my arm went dead throwing a fastball, I remember standing on the mound knowing if I came out of the game because of injury I may not get a job the next season.
So I threw very slow changeups and got three ground ball outs. When I went into the dugout the pitching coach knew something was wrong and I told him I couldn’t go back out.
I spent the rest of the offseason training and rehabilitating my arm.
I received no calls from any American teams and didn’t know if I would get to play again.
One day, while I was visiting my parents, they received a call from a Taiwanese agent who was looking for me to offer me a job pitching.
I gladly said I was interested… that’s how I came to Taiwan.
What first impressions did you have about the Lions and the CPBL?
I was just so grateful to have a job that everything seemed so good to me.
I was enjoying the culture and the history of the game in Taiwan. I loved knowing I had a friend on the Lions already (Lo Ching-Lung), and I was excited to play again.
I remember thinking the stadium was so beautiful as I was walking up to it.
How was life away from the mound in Tainan, Taiwan’s old capital?
The Lions have a good place for the players to live.
I would walk down the street for food. Sometimes I would ride a bike to go get coffee for my wife at Starbucks or 85.
My wife and I had date nights every Monday where we would go to one of the nice malls, walk around, watch a movie and have dinner.
Once in awhile if it wasn’t too hot we would go to the park (the one with the temple in the water) or a night market.
Back on the mound, were there then – or perhaps are there still, any ways things can be improved for foreign players coming to Taiwan?
Getting used to the culture I think is so helpful for the foreign players.
The quicker the players can accept the style of play, the food, the weather… the easier it is to focus on baseball and perform at the highest levels.
You moved north to join the Guardians in 2018 – we heard – because of contractural issues. What happened?
The Lions and I couldn’t reach an agreement that worked for both parties. That being said I respect everyone in the organization and think fondly of my time there.
And after just one season in Xinzhuang you retired. How did you feel bringing the curtain down on your playing career?
I felt at peace.
I left every part of my soul on the field when I played.
Even though my last season wasn’t great for Wins, I was proud of what I was able to do with what I had at the time.
Sometimes the ball doesn’t bounce your way in life, but sometimes it does. I learned to be happy either way and to always just be grateful for the opportunity while striving to be the best I could be.
Last we heard, you had move to Philadelphia to take on a coaching role at the Phillies. Is that still the case and what are you up to?
I am with the Phillies organization as a pitching coach.
Last season I worked with the rookie level players in the Gulf Coast League. That is my job again this year and I absolutely love working with the players and for the Phillies.
Any thoughts on the recent media storm caused by ‘our’ breaking the Manny Ramirez (wanting to come back to the CPBL) story?
Haha, Manny being Manny… he never surprises me.
The CPBL received a lot of column inches worldwide in the wake of games starting last month and we now have fans in the stadiums again, albeit in limited numbers. Do you think the MLB or baseball elsewhere in the world could learn from the CPBL and how they did it?
I think there are a lot of eyes on the CPBL and many people are watching intently to see how the league handles the situation.
This is a very fluid situation with a lot of uncertainty. I think a lot of people are learning through these tough circumstances.
And last one – what have I forgotten to ask you? Were our roles reversed, what would you ask Bruce Billings Jr?
I would ask ‘me’ What is one thing you would tell someone about what you’ve learned in your life so far?
I would say what my father told me when I was a young boy, “You can do and be whatever you set your mind to.”