Friday, August 29, 2014

The 17th Asian Games Baseball Team Rankings and Predictions.

The 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea is only a few weeks away and I can’t hold my excitement any longer. Since nursing school starts next week for me, I’ll take the time now to post my rankings and predictions about each team. Most of the rosters are set, but can change due to some reasons. You can check them out here in Chinese. Also, here's the schedule for the tournament.

1. South Korea – The Koreans will be going all out this year with their national team. It was announced that KBO will be sending 23 players to play this year, while suspending the league for 16 days. It includes homerun sensation Byung-Ho Park and Kang Jung Ho and ace Kim Kwang Hyun who’s having a nice bounce back season after couple of years of injury. The reason why it’s taken very seriously is because winning a gold medal would exempt players from mandatory two year military service. After winning the Little League World Series, it doesn’t look like they will stop here. Prediction: They have the strongest roster in the tournament. Anything short of a gold medal would be a major disappointment.

2. Chinese Taipei(Taiwan) – The CPBL won’t be sending any players to play for the national team. Instead, they will have players from the minor leagues and the Taiwan Popcorn League. At least 10 Taiwanese players from the states will be participating, including LHP Wang Wei Chung (Brewers), C Jhang Jin De (Pirates), and RHP Wang Yao Lin(Cubs). Some of these prospects can throw at least 95 MPH plus and could give Team Korea some trouble. Prediction: Most likely silver, but can win the gold if they dominate in pitching.

3. Japan – the Japanese team will be mostly made up of players from the Industrial and Independent League. This tournament isn’t high on their priority list, but it doesn’t mean they won’t be putting up a good fight. They pulled an upset against Team Korea in 2006 Asian Games in Doha, Qatar. They also finished 3rd in 2010 Asian Games, and 1st in 2012 Asian Baseball Championship and last year’s East Asian Games. Prediction: They will either win Silver or Bronze, but can possibly upset Team Korea again.

4. China – The Chinese team will be lead by veteran catcher Wang Wei and a bunch of young players who played in last year’s WBC and East Asian Games. They have beaten Taiwan 3 times since 2008 and played a relatively close game against Japan in 2013 WBC. There has been a steady increase of collegiate and amateur baseball being played in China. Sadly, the professional league couldn't reach a deal to restart this year, which continues to hinder the promotion of the sport. Prediction: China will probably reach the semis, but would need to pull an upset to play in the championship game. Since, this is a blog about Chinese baseball, let’s hope they win it all!

5. Philippines – The Philippines will have mostly amateur players from 2013 WBC qualifying round. They didn’t participate in 2010 Asia Games due to Sri Lanka backing out of the tournament. They finished 5th in 2012 Asian Baseball Championship and 3rd in 2013 WBC qualifying round. Baseball use to be quite popular in the Philippines. 
They won the Inaugural Asian Baseball Championship in 1951. Since then the government basically stopped funding the sport. One major reason could be the 1992 Little League scandal, where they forfeited their championship due to over age players. Also, their domestic league hasn't been active since 2012. Prediction: They can beat the lower tier teams, but won’t finish higher than 3rd in their group. Perhaps they can call Tim Lincecum for a little help since he’s part Filipino!

5. Thailand – Thailand is another team that will probably have players from 2013 WBC qualifying round except Johnny Damon. Even with Damon, they failed to beat the Philippines and New Zealand. They also finished 3rd in their group in the 2010 Asian Games. I’m not sure how much baseball is being played in Thailand, but once in a while some Americans would start an amateur club to promote the sport there. Prediction: Since the Philippines won't be playing, they have a good chance of finishing 3rd in the preliminaries.

6. Pakistan – Pakistan is probably one of the best team from the Western Asia region. They finished 1st in the 2010 Asia Baseball Cup, 3rd in their group from 2010 Asian Games and 6th in last year’s East Asian Games. They should know how to hit since the nation loves cricket. Recently, they’ve been boasting about being put in an easier group. They been training in universities and studying videos of the Chinese team. Prediction: They can be the major surprise of the tournament if they beat China, but will probably finish 3rd in their group. Great team spirit though!

7. Hong Kong – It’s amazing that such a small region can have a competitive baseball team. Recently, Hong Kong has been playing a lot of international tournaments. They finished last in 2010 Asian Games, and 6th in last year’s East Asian Games. They even made a movie about baseball in 2008 called “A City without Baseball.” Prediction: Will most likely finish last. They just don't have enough depth or talent to improve the team.

9. Iran – There's not a lot of information about the national team, but it looks like baseball is growing in Iran according to this article. They’ve been playing since 1991 and have a respectable world ranking, but like other countries, funding has been the problem. They can always brag about having one of the best pitchers in baseball, Yu Darvish. Prediction: They’ve been put in a group with Hong Kong and Iran, so they will most likely finish 5th below Hong Kong.

8. Mongolia – It’s impressive that they even have a national team put together. Over the years, the Japanese have sent coaches to help them out, but the outcome hasn’t been pretty. They were outscored 63 to 0 in the 2010 Asian Games and 150 to 1 in last year’s East Asian Games. Perhaps their best chances would be against Iran, but both aren’t in the same group. Baseball is unpredictable anyway, so let’s root for the ultimate underdog to score at least one run.

Anyway, I had a tough time finding the roster list for the lower ranking countries. If anyone knows any information about them, please leave a message and I’ll update it. If there are any readers, how do you feel about the upcoming tournament? Which teams will you be rooting for? Thanks for reading and have a great day!

Update 8/30: What a bummer... turns out Philippines and Iran wont be participating in this year's tournament. Still trying to find the source. Sorry for the confusion!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Guangzhou Violent Goat Baseball Team 广州球队招新

Who are they?

(Could use a little more violence)
The Guangzhou Violent Goat Baseball Team 广州暴力羊棒球队 was established in 2011. Since then, they have recruited over 100 members including amateur players and newcomers. The recruitment isn’t strict and welcomes anyone to come play with the team (high schoolers and above, sorry youngsters!). They also do not charge a fee unless you plan on becoming an official team member AKA building a foundation for the team. 

How is the training?

The training is super serious business. There’s a commitment pledge or some sort when joining the team, to ensure team progression. They train every Sunday from 11 AM to around 5 PM. The coaches and old players handle all the arrangements for the younger ones. They have a lease on one of the stadiums, but would require contact with them on QQ for more details (176100958). Here are some pictures: 

What’s baseball like in Guangzhou?

Guangzhou is one of the major cities that have somewhat of a following for baseball. Their professional baseball team Guangdong Cheetahs won the national championship back in 2010. The father of Chinese baseball Liang Fu Chu is also from Guangdong province. They hold the Youth Panda Cup tournament annually in Zhongshan in honor of his contribution. 

What’s the climate like?

If you like hot and humid weather all year long, you will enjoy Guangzhou. It’s not pleasant playing baseball in the summer due to the heat, that’s why some of the CBL games from before took place in the morning. Other than that, it’s not that cold in the winter, so baseball can be enjoyed all throughout the year.

What else is there to do?

I’m not much of a tour guide, but Guangzhou is one of the biggest and fastest growing cities in China. If you like amusement parks, there’s the Chimelong Paradise which includes a circus and a safari. There’s also White Cloud Mountain for hiking and Shangxiejiu Pedestrian Street for shopping and eating. There’s a lot more to explore, but I’ll spare the trip advisor talk. It’s a great place to visit if you plan on going to China. Anyway if you’re a fan of baseball and want to join the team during your stay, you can check out their official recruitment page and Weibo.

Thanks for reading and have a great day!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

MLB's "My Player" (一球成名) Reality Show Crowns Winner!

It looks like the MLB Reality Show (一球成名) has concluded in China and Chen Xin Jie 沈欣杰, a student from the MLB Development center, was crowned the winner of the contest. He went up against a million contestants and beat out the runner-ups by at least 13 million votes. He and hottie MLB ambassador Tong Xuan Yi 童苡萱(somewhat famous actress) will be flying to New York for an ultimate baseball tour. Good luck to Chen Xin Jie and hope he will make it to the MLB someday.

The show started in April hoping to catch people’s interest in baseball and MLB. While I haven’t seen an episode yet, the contest wasn’t some serious hardcore training show. What if MLB decided to do a “Million Dollar Arm” in China? I think it’s worth a shot if the show can be marketed correctly. Just take a look at those singing reality shows in China. People love to see the concept of “nothing into something”. If they can capture the competitiveness, the struggle and the hard work from young players, it would garner interest and support from the public. Plus, ballplayers make a ton of money, but that can’t be advertised. Anyway, thanks for reading and have a nice day!

Here's a short clip of the kid:

Update 8/27: It looks like the tour will continue into Tianjin this coming weekend. The direct translation is "My Player", but they call it "Perfect Pitch". Anyway, here's the poster for their promotion. If you're in China, go check it out!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Possibility of Baseball in Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games?

Some possible exciting news about the state of baseball and softball in the Olympic Games! Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympics Committee, hinted about the possibility of exceeding more than 28 major sports at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics during the Nanjing Youth Olympic Conference. Another conference in September will give more details about the consideration of adding sports. Baseball and softball was voted out in 2005 and was last played in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. It would be great to see baseball back in the Olympics, but chances are still very slim. There’s a lot of conflict and debate about whether it should be reinstated.

Why would it be great to be reinstated? Because baseball is a religion in Japan, and not having it in the Olympics would be a complete travesty. Just take a look at this. Look how passionate the fans are compared to American fans (I do enjoy hotdogs and beer). Imagine that kind of reception for baseball during the Olympic Games. People will look at baseball differently and not perceive it as just another American sport. It can also potentially attract other Asian countries in growing or revitalizing interest for the sport. And most importantly for the state of China baseball, the government would resume its funding to get more facilities and centers for people to play.

Why it wouldn’t be great to be reinstated? Most nations don’t care about baseball and would be a total misuse of fund to build a stadium just for it. The baseball stadium for Athens 2004 is completely abandoned, and the Beijing stadium was demolished to build other complexes. I also believe that London played a big part in not wanting baseball because football, rounder’s and football. And the Americans don’t care about the Olympics because it’s in the middle of the MLB season.

On a business perspective, the cons outweigh the pros in reinstating baseball for the summer Olympics. So what can others do to convince the IOC that baseball truly belongs in the Olympics? MLB been doing a decent job spreading the sport in Europe, but I have no idea why they haven’t been aggressive with Asian countries. The IBAF lacks the fund and influential power to promote international tournaments, but is working with WBSC for the upcoming Premier 12 Tournament. The Japanese started the Asia series couple of years back with Korea, Taiwan and China and have recently added Italy and Australia to the competition. They haven’t exactly done a good job being a leader in Asia. There are still some lingering war grudges from other countries, but things are a lot better than they were in recent years. It also doesn’t help that most Asian countries are ethnocentric. There are still a lot of kinks and agreement to work out in order to gain support from the IOC, but the level of participation in baseball around the world has increased drastically. I’m going to stay hopeful about baseball being reinstated back into the Olympics. Anyway, thanks for reading and have a wonderful day.

Side note: China American Football League will launch in fall 2014. Come on baseball.....

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Chinese Roster for Asia Games, Cross Strait Tournament in Taiwan

Here’s Team China’s 24-man roster for this upcoming Asia Games in South Korea.

Head Coach: 宋平山 Song Ping Shan
Pitching Coach: 呂建剛 Lu Jiangang – was a decent pitcher, played in the Chunichi Dragon minors, nicknamed “Taiwan Killer” for beating them.

王偉 Wang Wei – C – Probably the most well known player on the team.
孟慶遠 Meng Qing Yuan – RHP – Beijing Tigers
楊海帆 Yang Hai Fan – RHP – Beijing Tigers
劉寧 Liu Ning – no details
國濤 Gao Tao – 3B – Jiangsu Hopestar
翟源凱 Di Yuan Kai – OF – Beijing Tigers
崔曉 Cui Xiao – 2B – Beijing Tigers, WBC 13, former Yomiuri Giants farm player(2006)
李鑫 Li Xin – LHP – Tianjin Lions - 22 year old southpaw. Did well last year in cross strait tourney, got bombed in WBC by Cuba. Probably the ace of the team. Clip of him here.
李梓踉 Li Zi Liang – RHP – Tianjin Lions
孫建增 Sun Jian Zeng – Pitcher – Tianjin Lions
張皓玥 Zhang Hao Yue – IF – Tianjin Lions
楊順意 Yang Shun Yi – OF – Tianjin Lions
奇濟平 Qi Ji Ping – OF – Shanghai Eagles
張想 Zhang Xiang – Pitcher – Jiangsu Hopestar
褚夫佳 Chu Fujia – IF – Jiangsu Hopestar, played in WBC 09,13
杜曉磊 Du Xiao Lei – IF – Jiangsu Hopestar
陸毅 Lu Yi – IF – Jiangsu Hopestar
陳浩 Chen Hao – OF – Jiangsu Hopestar, WBC 09
李帥 Li Shuai – RHP – Henan Elephants – WBC 06, 13 (same name as a football player)
孟偉強 Meng Wei Qiang – C – Guangdong Cheetah, WBC 13
唐煒 Tang Wei – IF – Guangdong Cheetah
那閻 Na Yan – IF – Guangdong Cheetah
冉松 Ran Song – LHP – Sichuan Dragons, Clip of him here pitching in 2012
羅夏 Luo Xia – RHP – Sichuan Dragons

There aren’t really any scouting reports on these players, but most of them are pretty young. Wang Wei is the only old man on the team. You can check out the entire roster for other teams here. (In Chinese)

There’s also going to be another Cross-Strait Tournament held in Taichung this month. Four teams from Beijing, Tianjin, Guangdong and Jiangsu will be competing against other cities from Taiwan. You can read all about it here. It’s good to see political issues being put aside, but I hope the Taiwanese would do more to help the Mainland Chinese progress in baseball. In recent years, they have sent coaches to China to train with the professional players, but that’s about it. The CPBL should develop and market their brand in China to help with the league's financial problems and recent television deal dispute. One or two players from China in CPBL will definitely get some Chinese tourist over to watch some games (Or at least I hope). I would hate to see the CPBL fold or go through another gambling scandal. Anyway, more news to come and thanks for reading.

8/19 Update: It looks like the Cross Strait tournament concluded already. New Taipei City beat Tianjin Lions 6-1 in the finals to win the championship. It doesn't seem like there's any recordings of the game on YouTube or any Chinese media website. I didn't know it was this short. Oh well.. Asia Games here we go!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Hebei Shijiazhuang Tongyi Baseball Club

Let me introduce to you the Shijiazhuang Tongyi Baseball Club which was formed in September 2013. 
(Way better than my banner) Image Credit: Baidu

Shijiazhuang is a city in Hebei Province which is right next to Beijing. The province is well known for its crazy monsoon climate, but it doesn’t stop these fanatics from playing baseball.  The team consists of 30 people which are composed of professional and amateur players. They regularly organize team and foreign competition, one which is called the “Copper Heart Cup”.  Here’s a group picture of them. Their uniforms resemble the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks of Nippon Professional Baseball (it’s not only me right?).

Image Credit: Baidu

If you ever considered moving or working in the city, you can contact them on their Weibo homepage. They are always looking to recruit new players so they can help cultivate the game in their city. Here’s also the link to their Baidu recruitment page.

Like I mentioned before, there are a lot of amateur baseball teams looking to recruit in China. It’s great to see people promoting the game in their community, whether it’s a big or small city. I believe it’s one of the main keys in helping baseball thrive in China. We can relate it to American history, where many cities started with amateur baseball teams and eventually became professional. It’s also why baseball was pretty popular back in Republic of China days. Anyway, there’s a lot more to come about amateur ball clubs. You have no idea how creative they are with their logos, uniforms and club names. Thanks for reading and have a great day!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Baseball Industry Network Meet-up

Yesterday I attended the Baseball Network Industry meet-up hosted by Mr. Tyrone Brooks, the director of player personnel for the Pittsburgh Pirates. It was held at Foley’s NY, a baseball-Irish themed pub in Midtown, Manhattan. I didn’t know what to expect when I first arrived and felt a bit intimidated. Who should I approach? Who should I talk to? What can I say that doesn’t make me sound like an idiot? But you know what? It went great and many personnel from MLB were very helpful. I spoke with people from MLB Network, Yankees, Mets and even from the European leagues! I mostly asked them how they got to where they are today and if they could offer any advice. One major key in thriving in the sports industry is connection. You never know who you are talking to that can help you get to where you want, but also need to show that you have the knowledge, show that you can make a contribution and never be afraid of rejection. I am very humbled and honored to have participated in yesterday’s event, allowing me to acquire great advice from people who knew where young professionals are coming from. I want to thank Mr. Brooks and everyone who were there yesterday, and hope they all succeed in getting to where they want to be. I recommend people to attend the next meet-up.

Speaking of Chinese baseball, I’ve heard some rumors concerning a few potential major league caliber players coming from China. There might be 2-3 players that have been scouted heavily and might be ready next year for international signing. I’m not sure how true that is, but it can potentially be a huge impact for Chinese baseball. With that said, it’s also a huge gamble if the players don’t pan out and live up to their expectations. That’s why scouting in China isn’t that heavily reported, which can potentially damage the reputation of MLB if they are dead wrong about some players. Let’s all cross our fingers and hope it’s true! Chinese fans have been waiting for a long time! (Or soon to be fans).

I've also spoke with a personnel from the Yankees and he told me a story about Liu Kai and Zhang Zhen Wang, former players signed by the Yankees. They didn't like the culture here and didn't really want to play baseball. Kai was actually put in a match-up with Alex Rodriguez and struck him out. What a downer, he could have potentially turned into a reliever or LOOGY(Lefty one out guy). Well, that’s it for now and thanks for reading! 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The 17th Asian Games Baseball Schedule, U15 World Cup Tourney

It looks like there will be some important games next month! The 17th Asian Games, which will be held in Incheon, South Korea, just released their baseball schedule for the tournament. It’ll be from September 21-28. The venues will be Mokdong Stadium of the Nexon Heroes and Munhak Stadium of SK Wyverns (teams from the Korean Baseball Organization). Here’s the complete schedule and format of the tournament:

Group A: Japan, China, Pakistan, Hong Kong, Iran
Group B: Chinese Taipei, South Korea, Philippines, Thailand, Mongolia

9/21 – 11:30 G1 Philippines vs. South Korea, G2 Pakistan vs. Japan
            17:30 G3 Chinese Taipei vs. Thailand, G4 China vs. Hong Kong
9/22 – 11:30 G5 Philippines vs. Thailand, G6 Pakistan vs. Hong Kong
            17:30 G7 South Korea vs. Mongolia, G8 Japan vs. Iran
9/23 – 11:30 G9 Thailand vs. Mongolia, G10 Hong Kong vs. Iran
            17:30 G11 Chinese Taipei vs. Philippines, G12 China vs. Pakistan
9/24 – 11:30 G13 Mongolia vs. Philippines, G14 Japan vs. China
            17:30 G15 South Korea vs. Chinese Taipei, G16 Iran vs. Pakistan
9/25 – 11:30 G17 Mongolia vs. Chinese Taipei, G18 Iran vs. China
            17:30 G19 Thailand vs. South Korea, G20 Hong Kong vs. Japan
9/27 – 11:30 G21 Group A winner vs. Group B runner-up
            17:30 G22 Group B winner vs. Group A runner-up
9/28 – 11:30 G23 G22 loser vs. G21 loser for third place
            17:30 G24 Championship game

There probably won’t be any professional players from the Japanese, Korean and Taiwanese League, but the amateur players are still top notch. This is a chance for China to showcase their competitiveness against those countries. Realistically, they’ll go to the semifinals, but will lose to one of the top 3. Baseball is unpredictable, so let’s hope for some upsets!

Meanwhile, the Under 15 Baseball World Cup has been going underway for a few days already in Sinaloa, Mexico. China isn’t in the tournament, but Hong Kong is. They got their butts whooped in the first two games, but took game 3 against Lithuania. I’m just overly optimistic that baseball is being played in Hong Kong. You can probably catch a game there at Tsing Yi Sports Ground. Anyway, you can check out rest of the results here.

There are still a lot of things I want to write about in this blog, including amateur baseball teams, and international level of play around the world, but there are a couple of things I find challenging in keeping up. I would say the toughest part is being consistent with my updates and having readable entries. There are some people that have helped me in working with this blog. I would like to thank them for their contributions and how they’ve tolerated with my constant mistakes. Until then, thanks for reading y’all!

UPDATE: It looks like Korea will send their professional players to play in the Asian Games after all. Winning gold medals will exempt players from mandatory military service. Serious business. You can read all about it here.

Also, the Philippines and Iran won't be participating anymore.