MLB teams with local infra firm to grow game in China

BEIJING: Major League Baseball (MLB) and Beijing Enterprises Real-Estate Group Ltd.(BEREGL), a top Chinese state-owned enterprise, have announced a 10-year relationship to grow the game in China. 

The announcement was made at a press conference here recently attended by members of the Chinese government, BEREGL, MLB China and some of the top baseball players in the country. 

The new relationship is designed to result in a significant increase in baseball facilities, meeting the country's growing demand as participation in the sport continues to rise.

Having accumulated resources and experiences in participating in the venue construction for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, BEREGL seeks to team with MLB to build nearly two dozen MLB-branded baseball facilities throughout China. Up to 20 of the new projects would be MLB-BEREGL Baseball Development Centers, which would provide world-class facilities for talented Chinese student athletes in grades 7-12, combining a mainstream school curriculum with baseball skills development.   

MLB would consult on facility design, field management, and operations based on its experiences with creating, managing and renovating baseball fields and facilities around the world.

MLB currently maintains three development centers in China (Wuxi, Changzhou, and Nanjing), which helped three graduates sign contracts with MLB clubs including "Itchy" Xu Guiyan (Baltimore Orioles), Hai-Cheng Gong (Pittsburgh Pirates), and Justin Qiangba (Boston Red Sox). In the last four years, 36 players have graduated and advanced to play collegiate baseball in the US, China, Taiwan and Korea. Eleven alumni are members of the China National Team and 12 are playing professionally in the China Baseball League.

MLB will continue to arrange for visiting professional players and coaches to provide instruction for teams and players at all levels of Chinese Baseball. Past MLB visiting instructors have included Prince Fielder, Curtis Granderson, Mark Melancon, Jeremy Guthrie, and Jim Lefebvre. In addition, the two organizations intend to work together to market and promote the sport in China.

Qian Xu, chairman of BEREGL, said, "We are thrilled to have a strategic alliance with Major League Baseball that seeks to enhance the playing level of professional baseball teams in China. This new relationship with MLB also will seek to provide Chinese youth with new facilities to participate in this great game while advancing their education and learning valuable life lessons."

"This relationship with BEREGL will seek to accelerate our growth and to provide first-rate facilities and coaching for the increasing number of Chinese baseball players," said Jim Small, MLB vice president, Asia Pacific. "We are honored to team up with one of China's most forward-thinking, innovative and successful companies as we build momentum for baseball in the country."

Baseball is now played in more than 80 colleges and universities in China, double the number from six years ago. In the past 12 months, more than 40 new baseball facilities have been built by local governments and individuals around the country. MLB games and TV shows are telecast on China Education Television, following a deal completed earlier in the year. 

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