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China Prepares to Eat America's Lunch on the Baseball Field

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"For starting pitchers we have two Dominicans, one Italian, one Mexican and one Japanese. In the bullpen we have a Venezuelan, a Mexican, a guy from the United States and a guy from St. Louis." - Los Angeles Dodgers / Hall of Fame Manager Tommy Lasorda

It was 1999 when Tommy Lasorda uttered these now-famous words. But soon, we may be seeing many more Chinese faces on American MLB fields -- courtesy of the Major League Baseball development center in Wuxi, China.

"We are very pleased to be able to work with Major League Baseball to develop talented young players in China," said Shen Wei, Secretary General of the Chinese Baseball Association. "We hope to continue collaborating with MLB to successfully promote the game and cultivate our most talented athletes."

Major League Baseball has seen the NBA's success in China, beginning with Yao Ming. And the league would like nothing more than to get its fair share of merchandising, broadcast rights, and sponsorship deals.

"We plan on taking advantage of the dynamic climate that is taking place in China right now," Jim Small, vice president of MLB Asia, told China Daily last year.

Foreign Policy magazine explains that, "Countries where baseball is popular tend to have close political and military ties with the United States: Japan, South Korea, Panama, and the Dominican Republic to name a few. (Cuba is the exception, of course, but baseball made inroads there long before Fidel Castro came to power.) It's perhaps no surprise, then, that baseball has long been popular in Taiwan -- which might explain why Chinese officials have been eager to promote the sport on the mainland."

There are six Taiwanese players in Major League baseball:

Chin-Feng Chen

Chin-lung Hu

Hong-Chih Kuo

Fu-Te Ni

Chin-hui Tsao

Chien-Ming Wang

Not to be outdone by its nemesis to the south, Foreign Policy writes:

"In order to develop Chinese baseball players who might one day play in the United States, the MLB Wuxi center teaches more than just hitting, throwing, and catching. Students also watch such classic films about baseball culture as Field of Dreams, The Sandlot, and The Natural. Then they imitate what they see."

"They start to get that same sort of swagger and demeanor," says Rick Dell, director of baseball development in Asia for MLB. "They wear their pants the same."

If China one day cuts off rare earth mineral supply to the US, well, we'll probably start getting third basemen instead.
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