MLB gives Chinese talent something to swing for

2020-12-22 12:06:33

MLB is bringing entry-level baseball classes to school kids across China with its First Pitch clinics. The program was launched in September in Wuxi, Jiangsu province, and is organized in conjunction with the China Baseball Association and local education and sports bureaus. CHINA DAILY Major League Baseball has partnered with Prep Baseball Report scouting service to open another potential path to the big leagues for talented youngsters-including those from China. With the September launch of its First Pitch clinics at Fengying Primary School in Wuxi and the ongoing success of student-player development centers in Wuxi, Changzhou and Nanjing, MLB continues to spur baseball's growth in the world's most populous nation, where iResearch estimates around 8.5 million youngsters play the game. Overseen by MLB China, the First Pitch clinics will be expanded to kindergarten and elementary schools in 2021, providing access to high-quality textbooks, coaching resources, professional equipment, training sessions for teachers and a tournament for budding talent. Some of those kids might eventually punch a ticket to the new MLB Draft League, slated to launch in 2021, focusing on players eligible to be drafted the same year in which they're playing. The league's founding members-Mahoning Valley Scrappers, State College Spikes, Trenton Thunder, West Virginia Black Bears and Williamsport Crosscutters-are all based in the US northeast and could eventually offer playing and educational opportunities for foreign prospects. Plans include a 68-game regular season with an All-Star break centered around the MLB draft. Players will receive unprecedented visibility to MLB scouts through both in-person observation and state-of-the-art scouting technology, and educational programming designed to prepare them for careers as professional athletes. Prep Baseball Report will provide support for the league's staffing, player and coach recruitment, on-field operations and administrative functions. PBR will also use its media and technology platforms to promote the league and its players throughout the season. Morgan Sword, MLB's executive vice-president for baseball operations, said: "We are thrilled to partner with Prep Baseball Report and the founding members of the MLB Draft League to create a one-of-a-kind league that will attract top players who are eligible for each year's MLB Draft and allow local fans to see future big-league stars in their hometowns." Sean Duncan, president of Prep Baseball Report, said: "We are honored to work with these ownership groups and Major League Baseball to assure the future of impactful, high-level baseball and continue the legacy of deep community involvement. "With more than 150 scouts and operations personnel coast-to-coast at the high-school, collegiate and junior-college levels, we take great pride in our ability to identify top amateur draft prospects, which will ultimately make the MLB Draft League the preeminent league for draft-eligible kids." It may be a while before any Chinese prospects are invited to showcase their talent in the new league, but over the past 13 years MLB has been facilitating youth training for around 1.3 million students here, while baseball associations have been set up in more than 80 universities. In January 2018, MLB signed a collaboration agreement with Beijing Enterprises Real Estate Group Limited (BEREGL) to build and maintain 20 baseball development facilities in China designed predominantly for youth players. "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," MLB vice-president Jim Small said at the time. "We are honored to team up with one of China's most forward-thinking, innovative and successful companies as we build momentum for baseball throughout the country."