Field of dreams for orphans and migrant children

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Since then, he has discovered another four orphans - Zhang Xiangyang, Hao Jiaqi and Tibetan boys Bstan 'Dzin and Byams Pa Rig 'Dzin.

The Beijing Xinxing Longren Baseball Club shows off the trophy won at the Nankyu Baseball World Championships in Japan last month, China's first in 11 years.

 The Beijing Xinxing Longren Baseball Club shows off the trophy won at the Nankyu Baseball World Championships in Japan last month, China's first in 11 years.

They are all under 10. For the rest of the 39 kids in the club, many are from rural areas or from poor migrant workers' families.

Only 11 students pay the full fees of nearly 20,000 yuan ($2900) per year, which includes tuition, board and lodging, training equipment and enrollment at the adjacent Dacheng School, where the players keep up with the usual school curriculum. But even these payments only meet half the expenses. The rest comes from Li Wei himself, from savings he had hoarded during his years as a businessman and earnings from the stock market, he says. Some parents who are financially able also help. Several air conditioners in the dormitories and a bus for the team's transport were donated, as were some of the flight tickets to Japan last month for the World Championships.

The lack of finances has not deterred those who believe in Li Wei's crusade. The number of coaches has grown from one - Li himself - to five, including volunteer coach Tian Baoliang and Yang Bin, who get 500 yuan a month from the club.

A sports teacher at Dacheng School, Yang works with the team every day for two hours after school and full time during the holidays.

Although the Chinese Baseball Association(CBA) does not offer the club financial aid, it does supply secondhand bats, gloves and balls. Last week, the boys were told they would be getting a pitching machine, first used in Wukesong Stadium during the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

"This team is unique. Li Wei is so dedicated and the boys work really hard. If there were more people like him, it would be much easier to develop the sport in China," says Shen Wei, the head of the CBA.

For Li, the dream has just begun.

"If conditions allow, I will have more orphans and poverty-stricken children in the club. They have no other choices so they are more determined and they work harder. Unlike children from rich families, they treasure the opportunity to change their own destiny, to build their dreams."

Li Wei had his own dreams. When he took part in the 1985 Boys Nankyu Baseball World Championships in Japan as a catcher and finished second, he never thought he would be leading a team to the winners' podium 25 years later or that he would win the trophy for best coach. But now, he is motivated to aim for the stars.

"MLB is the best league in the world. The Japanese have proven their ability there and I hope my players can also make a difference there one day," he says.

This month, Li will be bringing some of his boys to visit Yankee Stadium (home of the New York Yankees) and let them see their field of dreams in reality - under an exchange program by QSL Sports Management co-organized by Kenneth Huang.

"I believe the visit will encourage them to follow their dreams and I have faith they will make it," Li says.

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