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MLB Hopes to Decide Asian Trips by Mid-July
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US Major League Baseball officials hope to decide by late July whether to play in Beijing and Tokyo early next year.

Bob DuPuy, MLB's chief operating officer, headed a delegation that went to China last week and inspected the ballpark being built in Beijing for next year's Olympics. He said exhibition games in Beijing and regular-season games in Tokyo weren't related and that different teams could be involved in each event.

"We are talking about both tracks," he said on Tuesday. "We clearly don't have a lot of time."

Teams opened the season in Tokyo in 2000 (Chicago Cubs and New York Mets) and 2004 (New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Devil Rays), and Seattle and Oakland were scheduled to start 2003 there before that series was scrapped because of the threat of war in Iraq.

"I think getting an overall logistical plan, talking to the players' association, determining sponsorship and broadcast possibilities and then reviewing what teams might be interested would be the next four steps," DuPuy said.

Gene Orza, the union's chief operating officer, said talks with management were likely to take place soon.

"There are logistical difficulties with doing both China and Japan, but we're interested in a Japan opener and we're interested in playing in Beijing," he said. "A lot has to be worked out."

Boston Red Sox president Larry Lucchino was among three clubs officials on the trip along with San Diego's Sandy Alderson and Pittsburgh's Kevin McClatchy. With Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Okajima, the Red Sox have appeal to Japanese sponsors.

The Yankees sent a high-level delegation to China during the offseason and said they would be interested in playing there but haven't heard back from the MLB commissioner's office of late.

"The Dodgers have a long history in Asia. Los Angeles has a huge Asian-Pacific population and we would definitely be interested in both opportunities," team spokeswoman Camille Johnston said.

MLB officials wanted to get a firsthand look at facilities in China. DuPuy said construction is ongoing at the Beijing ballpark.

"The sod has been put in. Most of the light fixtures are up. Most of the facility is built," he said. "They still have to build a mound. They still have to finish the basepaths. They still have to do some work with the outfield."

Lucchino was excited about the development possibilities.

"It's inevitable that Major League Baseball will be more active in China than we have been," he said. "It's inevitable there will be Chinese players in the big leagues. It's just a matter of timing as to when that transpires."

He can envision a youth baseball academy being started there.

"We've done it elsewhere, so we're not writing on a completely blank slate, but there is a need to recognize China is a unique place and it would have to be done in a way that is compatible with the unique circumstances," he said.

(China Daily via Agency June 7, 2007)

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