Even though baseball was first played
in China in 1863, the country has produced zero native MLB players to date and the sport barely registers in its national
sports psyche. So here’s how you reply to your friends when they question: “Why is China in the World Baseball
Classic (gulp) again?” After all, they might tell you, China was outscored 40 to (gulp) 6 in the inaugural WBC in 2006,
getting pummeled by “Asia’s Big 3,” Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, where baseball has been the No. 1 sport
in these countries for decades.
“Listen,” you reply to your
friends, “China’s got 1.3 billion people, has a growing, prosperous middle-class and a sports market estimated
to be worth more than $10 billion (in U.S. dollars) annually. Even heard of Yao Ming?”
if they come back at you with “but…” be sure to add, “if MLB teams can manage to sign nearly 80 players
out of Australia, a country of only 20 million people where baseball is not the No. 1 sport, think about how much better they’ll
fare in China. The number of school-age athletes in the Land of Mao alone is larger than the entire population of the U.S.”
They won’t question you again,
believe me. China has been, is now, and will likely continue to be Major League Baseball’s top player development priority
worldwide. Learn more about baseball in China and the World Baseball Classic by purchasing World in a Ballpark: Baseball
Goes Global, which is available at the Buy Joe's Guides page. If you want to view a sample of the guide and how easy the guide
works, visit the MLB Ballpark Trips page. Also listen to the "Yao Ming Song" written by my good friend Joe Pickering.
CHINA BASEBALL FACTS
Known For…Where MLB is hoping to find the Yao Ming of baseball.
Baseball’s China Debut: 1863.
Biggest Sports Competitors:
Soccer, basketball, ping pong/table tennis.
International Rival: Taiwan.
Chinese Baseballtown: Tianjin (draws biggest crowds in CBL).
China's Other Baseball Hot Spots:
China is still developing the sport, but the cities of Beijing and Panzhihua also have a strong, niche following.
Baseball Weather: HOT in the summertime.
China-born player to play MLB: Harry Kingman, born: Tientsin (Yankees, 1914) but parents were American-born, No native
China-born player has played MLB.
Number of Chinese-born currently signed to MLB organizations: 2.
Most Notable Current MLB Export: None.
Distinctly China: The Shanghai Foreign
Language Institute is one of three qualified Chinese universities that give credit to high school students on their college
entrance applications for outstanding skills in baseball.
Quotable: “If we can get one of these players to the big leagues,
hopefully it would create the Yao Ming effect in baseball over there,” former MLB player turned China coach Jim Lefebvre,
Asian Reporter, 2005
Occasional China Baseball
Speak (remember, they’re still learning): A “run” is a “point;” a “game”
is a “match;” and “an inning” is a “set.”