Asia Minute: Baseball’s Chinese Struggles

Dec 27, 2017

Credit Wokandapix / Pixabay

Not counting today, there are four days left in 2017. And if you’re a baseball fan that means it’s about six and a half weeks until pitchers and catchers report to spring training. This year that event may get some new attention from a distant shore of Asia. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

Major League Baseball is taking another swing at China.

Last week, the group announced a venture with a Chinese company to put together more than 20 baseball development facilities across the country. The partners are targeting a young audience—junior high school and high school kids.

China has been a tough market for baseball, despite the sport’s success in the big three Asian baseball hubs of Japan, South Korea and Taiwan—each of which has sent players to the major leagues.

Similar to those places, baseball was introduced to China in the late 1800’s by a combination of American college students and missionaries.

But in China, baseball never really took root. At the time of the 1960’s Cultural Revolution, it was banned for a decade.

In recent years, Major League Baseball has been pushing hard to make a bigger impression in China.

Forbes quotes Major League officials as saying baseball is now played in more than 80 colleges and universities in China—which is double the figure from six years ago.

Last year, MLB announced a three-year deal to live stream games to mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.

At the time, the head of the Chinese media partner working on the project tried to add a hopeful note that came out sounding more like George Carlin than Xi Jinping.

Fei Gao told reporters “baseball is a sport of ‘coming home’—which matches our traditional Chinese family values perfectly.”