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China to Play Opener in World Baseball Classic

Wukesong Baseball FieldChina is to play Japan in the 2009 World Baseball Classic (WBC) on Mar 5, a 16-team tournament created by Major League Baseball and is held every four years. The team suffered three straight losses to Japan, South Korea and Chinese Taipei in the inaugural WBC Pool A games in 2006. But with the help of Jim Lefebvre, the then head coach, the team progressed rapidly and surprised the fans by a win over Chinese Taipei 8-7 in the Beijing Olympic baseball tournament which later won by South Korea.

Team China has been coached by Terry Collins, who had previously managed the Houston Astros, the Anaheim Angels of MLB and the Las Vegas 51s of the Pacific Coast League, after the Beijing Games. And the country now has two players at the New York Yankees and one at Pittsburgh Pirates of MLB.  Zhu Dawei (朱大卫), a promising 20-year-old pitcher, is playing for Saitama Seibu Lions (埼玉西武狮队), which crowned the Japan Championship Series in 2008.

The middle kingdom has its own baseball league since 2002, a year before the country signed contract with Jim Lefebvre, but without much audience. The Wukesong Baseball Field (五棵松棒球场), the best baseball field in the country where the final of Beijing Olympic baseball tournament took place, was demolished after only 44 matches were played there. Shen Wei, the secretary general of China Baseball Association submitted a letter to Development Projects Committee of the Beijing Games trying to keep the field. But it’s manifest that the developers were reluctant to keep it for a sport without market.

The WBC opener will be played at 5:30pm (Beijing Time) on Mar 5 at Tokyo Dome. For fans inside China, Shanghai Sports TV will broadcast the recorded match at 11 pm, and Guangdong Sports at 9:15 am on Mar 6. Also in Pool A are Chinese Taipei and South Korea, who will face off each other this Friday.

Photo: www.aoyunwww.com

LA Times: World Baseball Classic is a mixed bag

MLB: Classic certain to earn its name

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