LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers held a special news conference, featuring Taiwanese recording artist Lin Yu-Chun and Taiwanese left-hander Hong Chi-Kuo, on Thursday to announce a yearlong partnership with the Taiwan Tourism Bureau in Los Angeles. The special event was also attended by Dodgers James Loney, Jamey Carroll and Xavier Paul, who all raved about traveling to Taiwan in March, when the club played exhibition games there against a team of Taiwanese All-Stars. It also helped promote Taiwan Day, which will be held on Saturday when the Dodgers host the Tigers at Dodger Stadium. "The experiences of the Dodgers players are the best endorsement," said Trust Lin, director of the Taiwan Tourism Bureau in Los Angeles. "Their endorsements of Taiwan are genuine to the fans, and with the Taiwain Day event we hope to take it a step further to share with fans the cuisines and wonders of Taiwan."
But the highlight came from Yu-Chun -- whose rendition of Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You" has been viewed by more than seven million people online and earned him a contract with Sony Music Entertainment -- when he sang "Taiwan Touch Your Heart," a lighthearted national hymn depicting Taiwan. Yu-Chun is also scheduled to sing "The Star-Spangled Banner" and "God Bless America" on Saturday as part of the Taiwan Day festivities at Dodger Stadium. "I'm very excited and nervous about being here in L.A. and at Dodger Stadium," Yu-Chun said. "I'm honored to be invited here and sing these songs." Yu-Chun also exchanged gifts with Kuo, as he gave the left-hander his signature bow tie, while Kuo gave him a signed baseball. Kuo joked that he "couldn't sing too well" but endorsed his home country, which is seeing a 16 percent increase in tourism from the United States. "Taiwan is a beautiful island," Kuo said. "I was happy for all my teammates to be able to be there and see the beautiful island and all the people over there." Carroll, Paul and Loney were among those 33 players who made the trip along with Dodgers manager Joe Torre. They all recounted their positive experiences in the largest island in the Republic of China. "It was a great time going over there, and I wish it was a little bit longer," Carroll said. "Their passion for the game of baseball was a little overwhelming for me at first. I wasn't prepared for that type of reception, so I'll always remember that." Paul also said he didn't know exactly what to expect but that he talked to Taiwanese shortstop Chin-lung Hu, who made the trip and is currently in Triple-A, about what it would be like visiting the island. "I really didn't know what to expect before we left, but I've played with Chin-lung Hu ever since I signed with the Dodgers six years ago," Paul said. "He always bugged me about coming to Taiwan, so to finally get a chance to go there was spectacular and very exciting." Loney recalled how passionate Taiwanese baseball fans are, as they embraced Dodgers players wherever they went. "It was definitely a fun experience all-around to see the people embrace us," Loney said. "They're definitely passionate about baseball. It was fun playing in front of the fans and I would love to go back someday." The My Town Taiwan section of Dodger Stadium is sold out on Saturday, but fans can still purchase tickets close to the section for an experience of Taiwanese culture, which includes plenty of authentic cuisine. Fans can also purchase tickets to the second Taiwan Day, which will be held Sept. 4. "Taiwanese sausage, like the Dodger Dog, is a must-have for Taiwanese fans at baseball games and the satay sauced BBQ can introduce fans to experience the baseball culture of Taiwan," Lin said. "And the rooting air-sticks, fishing bottle games and downloadable photosticks are just some of the promotional fun we'll make available to those of all ages at Taiwan Day this Saturday."
Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.