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MLB Opens New Market in China
   2015-07-27 10:59:34    CRIENGLISH.com      Web Editor: Min

File photo of a young baseball player at a baseball event in Guilin city of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. [Photo: CFP]

Earlier this week, Chinese outfielder Xu Guiyuan made headlines when he signed with Major League Baseball's Baltimore Orioles. MLB's entry and expansion in China, however, started a long time ago. CRI's Victor Ning has more.


As the world's most populous country, China has become a focal point for many international sports organizations seeking global expansion. With the missions to bring baseball to another side of the globe and to identity fresh talents, Major League Baseball began its activities in China more than ten years ago.

According to MLB, it entered a development agreement with the Chinese Baseball Association in 2003, gaining the right to scout and sign Chinese players, as well as staffing US baseball veterans Jim Lefebvre and Bruce Hurst on the Chinese national team.

MLB now has three Development Centers on the Chinese mainland, in Wuxi, Changzhou and Nanjing. Rob Palmer, the head coach at the Wuxi Center says the goal of these centers is to bring MLB closer to Chinese fans.

"Baseball is very, very big all through Asia, Japan and Korea and Taiwan, so a lot of our players grew up watching a lot of Japanese baseball. They watch a lot of baseball from Taiwan, so they grew up looking at those players as role models, and we start to expose them a little more to baseball in United States as well. And they started to learn more about Major League Baseball teams and starts to become fans of the game."

A total of 85 local players are enrolled at these centers so far. Xu Guiyuan, the 19-year-old who signed with the Baltimore Orioles on July 20th, is from the center in Wuxi, in the province of Jiangsu.

Zhang Xiaotian, the assistant coach at the Wuxi center, is optimistic about young Chinese players' career trajectories in America.

"A lot of young Chinese player are very willing to play baseball, especially play baseball in America. I believe this is the dream of every baseball players in China, because America has the biggest baseball league in the world. Baseball players around the world all would like to play there. "

Huang Liwei, an 18 year old from Shenzhen in Guangdong Province, is now training at the Wuxi Development Center. Huang played once in the US for Amateur Baseball Development and says he aspires to play in the Major League one day.

"Of course I want to play in the Major League. I want to start with the minor league, sign with them. Then work hard and fight to play in the Major League. I've been to America once. I feel the baseball environment and the people there are very good. Everything feels good there."

Both coaches at the Wuxi Center speak highly of their recruits and expect them to become professional players.

In addition to running the centers, MLB says its activities in China have also included youth and grassroot school programs, exchanges between Chinese and American teams, broadcast deals and merchandize sales.

As for Xu Guiyuan, he'll complete his high school studies in China before reporting to the Orioles spring training camp next February. He will then be assigned to one of the club's minor league affiliates.

For CRI, I am Victor Ning.



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