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A long way in a short time
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Since arriving in China to manage the country's national baseball team in 2003, Jim Lefebvre has been asking for patience and recognition of the team's progress rather than criticism of its shortcomings.

"We've come a long way," Lefebvre likes to repeat whenever he faces skeptics.

A long way in a short time

Soon people will find out far. In less than 60 days, the 66-year-old MLB all-star and manager will lead host China onto Beijing's Wukesong Baseball Field.

Joining China is a list of teams in a different league, including three-time Olympic champion and multiple world champion Cuba; 2000 Sydney champion the US; World Baseball Classic winner and 1996 Atlanta Games silver medalist Japan; 1992 Barcelona Games silver medalist Chinese Taipei and European champions the Netherlands; among others.

The host team, has never qualified for the Olympics before and its best result is a bronze medal from the 2005 Asian Championships. Fortunately, it automatically qualified for August's Games as the host.

"We want to put on a decent show," Lefebvre said.

For an analogous situation there is Greece four years ago. The baseball nobody qualified as host, fielding a team full of Greek descendants that played in the US.

It notched a hard-fought win over Italy in seven preliminary games, but lost heavily to the traditional powerhouses - 6-1 to Japan, 11-0 to the Netherlands and 7-1 to Chinese Taipei. It eventually ranked second to last in the preliminary table, just above Italy.

Lefebvre, however, believes China is capable of going one better than Greece at the Beijing Games.

"We are at the bottom compared with those strong teams," Lefebvre said. "But we will be very competitive during the Olympics - there is no question about it."

The question remains, however, where does his confidence come from?

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