Baseball season has swung into high gear in the United States. But the sport is also gaining fans around the world including China.
The country has become a breeding ground for some big talent with their eyes set on the big leagues.
CGTN’s Frances Kuo reports.
With a crack of the bat, the bases are loaded – It’s a familiar sight in baseball fields across the United States.
It’s also becoming a common sight in China. In Nanjing, more than 20 players are practicing at a development center.
It’s one of three centers that Major League Baseball runs in all of China.
“My ultimate goal is definitely to get in the MLB,” said player Zhu Tianzhou. “But it appears now I haven’t done enough yet. I will do it step by step.”
Zhu is one of about a hundred teen players participating country-wide, all hoping for a chance to play pro in the U.S.
The MLB pays for all expenses including training, schooling and living costs.
“I think that’s something that I’m very proud of, is we’ve gone out everywhere,” Rick Dell, MLB Baseball’s Development Director in Asia. “Not just to the big cities, not just to the popular places, but we’ve gone everywhere and tried to uncover every stone to see if there’s a special kid out there.”
One stone they uncovered was in Tibet. “My future goal is to help Tibetans, because many Tibetans don’t know what baseball is,” said player Huadan Cairang. “I want to let more Tibetans to like baseball.”
Ray Chang is the coach at the Nanjing Center.
He played pro in the U.S. and later for the China National Baseball Team.
Chang says young Chinese players have the essentials, they just need the finesse.
“They got that disciplined mindset,” said Chang. “It’s just applying the mechanics and the baseball experience into their game, and then we kind of see what happens after that.”
Baseball has come a long way in China.
The MLB has been working with the China Baseball Association since 2001.
Six years later, they signed an extended partnership deal to boost baseball’s presence in China.
Part of that presence is playing out in primary schools with the “Play Ball” initiative.
The league says it’s helped introduce baseball to millions of children in China.
Getting to the top is not easy, but the young players may be encouraged by recent recruits.
In an unprecedented move in March, the MLB’s Milwaukee Brewers signed three Chinese players at the same time.
All of them came from the development centers in China.
“I don’t know if I will get in, but I believe I can get in,” said player Zhu Tianzhou.
It’s an attitude that may help these players earn that winning ticket to the big leagues.
Mike Bako discusses baseball in China
CGTN’s Elaine Reyes spoke with Mike Bako, sports editor of DailyNational.com, about baseball in China.