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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    UA music student on his way to the Majors

    Steve Xiu, right, a music performance senior, was asked to translate for minor league pitcher Po-Yu Lin, left, last year. Since then Xiu has been trying to balance finishing his degree and working with Lin.
    Steve Xiu, right, a music performance senior, was asked to translate for minor league pitcher Po-Yu Lin, left, last year. Since then Xiu has been trying to balance finishing his degree and working with Lin.

    When UA music performance student Steve Xiu received a message from a colleague at the Tucson Chinese Cultural Center about a potential gig working as a translator, he figured it must have been a joke.

    After all, who would believe that a Chicago White Sox representative would just leave a message looking for an Arizona student to be a translator for a Taiwanese ballplayer?

    Xiu certainly became a believer after he called Chicago’s minor league rehab coordinator, toured the club’s spring training facility in Tucson and promptly received an offer to serve as a translator and personal assistant for prospect Po-Yu Lin less than a day after he first found out about the position.

    “”I was at the right place at the right time,”” Xiu said. “”I guess it could have happened to anyone.””

    Xiu, a sports fan who never played baseball in his youth, needs only one more year to earn his saxophone music performance degree Then, he planned on attending graduate school on the East Coast before eventually becoming a saxophone professor at a university.

    The career plan made sense for a student who came to the university to perform in the Pride of Arizona marching band and pep band, in which he has participated for the last three years.

    Xiu asked his mom if he should take advantage of this unexpected opportunity in lieu of pursuing his perfect career plan. His mother responded with her own question and asked Xiu where his passion lies.

    “”Well, music’s obviously my passion, but this is too good to be true,”” Xiu recalled saying. “”It’s hard to pass up.””

    So Xiu spent his summer with the Bristol Sox, the Rookie League affiliate of the White Sox in Virginia. He lived the minor league life with the rest of the players and coaches, traveling by bus from city to city across Virginia, Tennessee, Florida, West Virginia and North Carolina.

    He and Lin hung out all the time, ate meals together, played video games and talked about life. While many college students can barely take care of themselves, Xiu had to watch out for a professional athlete in a role he compared to babysitting at times.

    Although Xiu, 22, needed to possess a strong command of English as well as Mandarin to secure the position with Chicago, he did not grow up speaking much English. When he was 15, Xiu faced the same situation as Lin when he moved to Phoenix from mainland China with little knowledge of this country’s primary dialect.

    “”He reminds me of me when I first moved to the U.S.,”” Xiu said.

    At the ballpark, Xiu worked as a Sox staff member, complete with his own uniform. Besides having his own locker next to Lin, he would run with the pitcher, play catch and shag fly balls in the outfield during batting practice. Xiu even had his own baseball card made.

    On game day, when the catcher or pitching coach needed to speak with Lin during an inning, Xiu joined the conversation, trotting out to the mound in front of all the fans in the stadium.

    “”The pitching coach tells me, ‘Look, you need to calm down, throw a slider and make sure you don’t bring it over like this, and stay on top,’ and I’ll just translate right there,”” Xiu said. “”I’ll be out on the mound with him. It’s surreal. The first time I went on the mound, it’s like, ‘Wow. There’s like 4,000 people watching the game, and this is kind of weird.’ “”

    Although Xiu has returned to campus for the start of the semester, he remains on call with Major League Baseball to leave town or help translate for a new player. Xiu is scheduled to graduate in May, but if Lin earns a promotion to Single-A, Xiu will likely have to leave school at the end of March to help the pitcher through another season.

    The only major project Xiu will have to complete in the spring will be his senior recital; he hopes the university will let him finish his finals online over the last month of the season, the course of action former UA basketball player Marcus Williams took at the same time last year while preparing for the NBA Draft.

    Xiu expects to remain Lin’s assistant throughout a career that Lin’s pitching coach said has a good shot at leading to the majors. At 20, Lin led his team in wins, ERA and strikeouts.

    “”Me and him got to the point instead of just ‘I’m his translator,’ he’s like my little brother now,”” Xiu said. “”We’re so close. We really grew a lot as just friends. He knows that I’m there to help him and he can rely on me, and he told me, ‘You’re the first person I can trust in America.’ That really means a lot.””

    That trust has put a UA saxophone player on the road to the big leagues.

    – Michael Schwartz is a journalism senior. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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