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Baseball in Shanghai? Another American Sport Exported to China

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As a former athlete and avid sports fan, one of the hardest things I experienced in Shanghai, China is having almost no access to American sports. Though basketball has gained popularity in China in the past 10 years, it still has to establish a base in their sports culture. There are some kids who are aspiring to be the next Yao Ming. But if you say the word “baseball” to the Chinese, even to those who could speak English well, they will respond to you with the word “bangqui”. That is their word for baseball (pronounced bong chi-o).

Some expats in Shanghai told me about a baseball team that was playing in the city. I searched Google for some information about them and found just a few articles about the Shanghai Eagles. They had a spring trip to the US to play a few matches with junior college teams. In game summaries, published by the US school news team, the team was described as having decent pitchers but they were not very good at hitting. As a result, they lost all 7 exhibition games with the US.

A Chinese friend of mine informed me where the Shanghai Eagles played and what time. I didn’t expect much from the team but I was excited anyway to see a baseball field again. So I and my wife went out on a Friday afternoon to watch their game. These are what I observed.

  • There were only around 50 people in the audience. People come and go as the game went on.
  • A few older Chinese men in the crowd said they played baseball when they were younger but did away with the sport when Mao Zedong removed American influence during their Cultural Revolution.
  • I had the opportunity to watch a Chinese professional pitcher throw. It was pretty decent for he was throwing high 70s and 80s. He threw curve balls and change ups. His control was like an average to good college pitcher.
  • During the game, they allowed both teams to start extra innings with one runner on second base. This allowed the game to be boring, as their apparent lack of confidence in hitting on part of both teams turned the extra innings to a bunt-fest.
  • I met some college level baseball players who developed an interest in baseball when they attended college. They don’t attend the designated college for baseball, so their involvement in baseball was only extra-curricular.
  • The field where the team was practicing was just a general-purpose field used mainly for track and soccer exercises. With space limitations in Shanghai, facilities have to be double usage. The right and center field was a mix of people player soccer and others playing baseball.
  • On deck hitters used the Chinese custom of retaining your place in the line by crowding behind the person who is in front. However, if the person in front of you is swinging a bat, that rule should be changed.
  • Several of the players were being hit by a fast ball. I told the players several times to back away from the catcher and the batter. Several of them did not understand what I am saying.
  • A nervous batter stepped up to the plate but opened up himself towards the ball that it hit him in the stomach. The player lost all interest in the American sport.