As I reported earlier this week, the Dodgers have a long history of working to build baseball’s profile in China, dating back to 1980. Now, the Dodgers are partnering with a club in China to grow the presence further.
Owner Frank McCourt said today that the Dodgers will form a partnership with the team in the industrial city of Tianjin. As reported by Bloomberg News:
“This great country and its people are ready to embrace baseball,'' McCourt told reporters in Beijing. “The Dodgers are committed to bringing the game of baseball to China.''
The agreement will be signed before March 18 and covers areas including the use of facilities and coaching, said Charles Steinberg, the Dodgers' executive vice president, without disclosing the name of the team.
As I mentioned to Chuck Wilson on Baseball Beat, XM 175 today, it will take time for baseball to take root in China.
In the 1960s, Chairman Mao Zedong banned baseball in China. As the leader of the communist country, the sport was viewed by him as bourgeois and out of step with the country’s doctrine: a collective ownership of property and organization of labor for the common advantage of all members.
Baseball was viewed as a sport for the wealthy.
So, for more than 40 years, baseball has been in the shadows in the world’s most populous country.
MLB’s efforts will surely accelerate the visibility of the sport, but at this point, the few fans of the game are working to understand the rules. It will take time to get the game’s popularity to the levels we see in Japan currently. A broad-reaching television deal would certainly be a bold first step. Developing an MLB-caliber player would be the other.
That view is not held by all. As mentioned in the Bloomberg article, some feel there’s a misconception of China and baseball.
“The notion that it's going to take a long time, or that it'll be difficult to develop a player from China, is a misconception,'' Sandy Alderson, the Padres' chief executive officer, said in Beijing.
READ MORE ON MLB’S EFFORTS IN CHINA: