Kids stepping up to plate as MLB's efforts reap rewards

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China Daily, October 19, 2021
Adjust font size:
The fall season of the MLB Cup Open Youth Baseball Tournament swung into action in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, over the weekend. CHINA DAILY

"Let's play ball!" was the roar from the kids as the fall season of the MLB Cup Open Youth Baseball Tournament swung into action over the weekend at Guangzhou Tianhe Sports Center in Guangdong province.

Over 29 teams across three age groups are participating in the latest edition of the competition, underlining just how far the sport has come since MLB first established a presence in China in 2007.

According to the 2019 Baseball Development White Paper, China's "baseball population" totals over 20 million, with over 60 percent of baseball's "active population" taking up the sport since 2016.

"Now more than 2 million children are playing and experiencing baseball through MLB activities. The MLB Cup Open Youth Baseball Tournament has grown in the past 13 years, from a single age group-under-12s-to five age groups, and from five cities to more than 20", said Tony Qi, managing director of MLB China.

Qi outlined a multitude of reasons why baseball is a perfect sport for kids.

"All sports benefit children to a certain extent, but baseball is especially beneficial to the healthy development of children's bodies and minds. It's competitive but not adversarial, and therefore doesn't have a high requirement of physical fitness, and there's a relatively small chance of injury," he explained.

Because baseball is also a highly strategic game, it requires a lot of thinking and flexibility in regard to tactics.

"A key element of baseball is sacrifice, sacrificing yourself to help the team win. This is unique among all team sports," Qi said.

This year, MLB is also working with Guangzhou Tianhe Qihui School, a special education institution, in order to encourage more kids to pick up bats and gloves. Disabled children don't usually get the chance to take part in baseball competitions, and MLB believes it has a responsibility to provide more opportunities for them.

"Although these kids may not be able to compete to the same level as other children, through the games organized by MLB, they can enjoy more fun on the playground and develop an interest in baseball", Qi said.

Xu Wenwen, deputy director of the guidance office at Tianhe Qihui School noted that her pupils have benefitted greatly from the MLB initiative.

"The children are actively involved in the baseball games and have become happier and more outgoing. They even chased after the teacher in the school to ask when would they have a baseball lesson again. During the pandemic, they bought equipment and trained at home spontaneously."

The school reports that the pupils' coordination, physical strength and mental health have all improved through playing the sport.

"At the very beginning, they didn't even dare to pick up the ball on the playground, but now they can hit the ball confidently."

Baseball also ties in with China's strong family culture.

"Home is an important notion in baseball. There are terms like home run and home plate, and a home run is often the highlight of the game. And China is a nation that emphasizes family so much."

Baseball can also help forge a deeper emotional connection between father and son.

MLB has now established a comprehensive system for young players in China.

From the "First Pitch" classes for beginners to competitions like the MLB Cup and talent foundations like the MLB Development Center, youngsters can choose a path best suited to their level.

Now the priority for MLB is to work with local governments and enterprises to build more baseball fields. In addition, MLB is keen to work with local schools and clubs to produce more baseball coaches, who in turn can train more kids.

Follow on Twitter and Facebook to join the conversation.
ChinaNews App Download
Print E-mail Bookmark and Share

Go to Forum >>0 Comment(s)

No comments.

Add your comments...

  • User Name Required
  • Your Comment
  • Enter the words you see:   
    Racist, abusive and off-topic comments may be removed by the moderator.
Send your storiesGet more from