Jim Lefebvre, China's national baseball team manager, is full of
confidence as he leads his group of young talents into the
four-team Konami Cup Asia Series 2006 in Tokyo.
Although hampered by injuries that forced out four top players
Lefebvre said the team was ready to make their mark in a tournament
with domestic league champion teams from Japan, South Korea and
"The number one thing is our team is playing with confidence,"
Lefebvre, the former Los Angeles Dodgers infielder and Seattle
Mariners manager said yesterday. "We come here with some injuries
but trust me this won't be an excuse and we will play our best," he
The Chinese team's record in the tournament is poor. During the
inaugural edition last year the squad lost to the Sinon Bulls from
Chinese Taipei, Korea's Samsung Lions and Japan's Chiba Lotte
Marines 6-0, 8-3 and 3-1 respectively.
Traveling to the Tokyo Dome for the second time the Chinese team
has star players from domestic league teams. They'll play La New
Bears from Chinese Taipei today, Samsung Lions tomorrow and Japan's
new national champions, Nippon Ham Fighters, on Friday.
Lefebvre believes they've found the key to victory when playing
against elite league teams. China has only won once against one of
Asia's "Big Three" - Japan, South Korea and Chinese Taipei - at any
senior level of competition.
"They know how to win and they know what to do to win," he said.
"Now we're going to do it on the field." He asks his players to "do
little things" against the big-hitting teams.
"We're not a team with lots of power," said Lefebvre. "I
think someday we'll have power but now we are a team that needs to
put the ball into play and do the little things such as moving the
runners into scoring positions."
A tough and hustling approach is likely to be China's biggest
"We must play nine hard innings," Lefebvre said. "We'll play the
game hard and play it right. That's the kind of baseball we want so
we can be competitive."
The tournament will also be a huge test for the new faces in the
Four top players are missing including Wang Nan, who was MVP at
the Asian Baseball Championships last year when China won a
historic bronze medal by edging out South Korea 4-3. He's taking a
half-year break after undergoing surgery in the US.
"Definitely that has some influence on the team," said Shen Wei,
secretary-general of the China Baseball Association. "But we won't
take it as a totally bad thing because the opportunity is now open
to young players. They'll gain experience which is good for the
Team captain Zhang Yufeng believes the fresh blood will be a
catalyst for the team. "I think the level of the team is even
better with these new players," Zhang said. "They improved
dramatically under coach Lefebvre's leadership. We have a big
opportunity to win a game."
The performance of the Chinese team here is even more
significant with the Beijing Olympics coming up fast. "This is the
team we are preparing for the 2008 Games," said Shen. "We've been
enjoying very solid improvement over the past few years."
China is looking forward to writing a new chapter in the
nation's baseball history by winning a medal at the 2008 Games.
Aiming for this ambitious goal Chinese officials started to prepare
early scouting talent throughout the nation and inviting the US
Major League Baseball coaches Lefebvre and Bruce Hurst to assist
four years ago.
(China Daily November 9, 2006)