Baseball a hit in Guangzhou
Updated: 2011-07-11 08:02
By Li Wenfang (China Daily)
The United States' "national pastime" is played by few people in China, even in first-tier cities such as Guangzhou.
Some expats in this southern city, however, have been trying to make themselves feel more at home by organizing children's baseball leagues.
This year's season ended with about 250 expat kids turning up at the Tianhe sports complex baseball park earlier in June for an all-star game and summer BBQ.
Between 2004 and 2008, the expat community organized baseball leagues in Guangzhou, says Harley Seyedin, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in South China.
His son, Dylan Sterling, started playing in Guangzhou in 2005, when he was 4 years old. But in 2009, many of the parents and volunteers who had organized games had moved away, leaving a vacuum.
"Early this year my son told me he wished he could play baseball. This, and the fact that his two younger brothers had become 4 years old and also wanted to play, motivated me to ask the board of governors of the chamber to allocate some resources so that we could restart baseball."
The chamber also received sponsorship from a local company and medical support from a health check clinic, organizing five leagues based on players' ages, with 20 teams.
"Because we had not had baseball for several years, most of the younger children did not know how to play the game. However, with more than 70 adult volunteers as coaches and assistant coaches and team moms, the children learned quickly and improved rapidly as the season went on," Seyedin says.
Dylan Sterling was proud of his performance in the all-star game. "Coaches said I performed like a professional. I was proud because my brothers, mom and dad were watching."
It was Marcus Finley's first season. "I listened to the coaches. It was quite hard to hit the ball and the rules were confusing, but I kept practicing and learned from my mistakes."
While his mother, Nora Zhong, doesn't know much about baseball, some parents, like Joe Warren, are more knowledgeable.
"I have been a little league baseball coach for many years, both in Jakarta, Indonesia, where my two older children played, and in Guangzhou, where all three of my children have played," Warren says.
For the parents of the players, the season was rewarding.
"Playing baseball helped our kid further develop his social skills and deal with frustration. Also, it gives us the opportunity to do something together as a family and have fun on the weekend," Zhong says.
Tim Shaver was one of the 70 adult volunteers who served as coaches and assistant coaches. "I think it was fairly easy given the level of the kids' enthusiasm. The hardest part in Guangzhou is always trying to get in as many games as possible without the weather interfering."
"By the end of the season, the kids were moving together and playing as teams. It was just great to be a part of their growing up."
With the all-star game and summer BBQ "bringing back great memories of home", Seyedin's chamber plans to expand the league to 500 children next year by inviting 250 Chinese children.
"In this way we hope to share the fun and education that results from playing baseball with our Chinese friends and their families," he says.
Zheng Erqi contributed to the story.
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