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China Pro League Started In June 2002

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    With an eye to the 2008 Olympics, mainland China inaugurated its first professional league on March 28, 2002 in hopes of developing a national team good enough to make it to the top four in the Olympic baseball tournament. The actual regular season runs from June to August with a midseason break for international competition. 

    Baseball has been played in China in the 1960's, where over 40 teams competed across the country, many of them made up of members of the People's Liberation Army. However, the Cultural Revolution reportedly put an end to the Chinese nines.

    Recently, though, baseball has seen a resurgence in the Communist state, with over 100 elementary and junior high schools holding hardball matches in the last decade.

    Guangzhou, Shanghai, Beijing and Tianjian are the four cities that will host pro clubs, with the Tianjian bunch already being touted as the strongest of the lot. However, the manager of Tianjian admits that their level of play is about that of the Japanese industrial leagues and slightly below that of the Taiwanese pro leaguers.

    Whatever the case may be, the squads will play four times a week, with the other three days given over to promoting the game by having the players visit elementary and junior high schools. Eventually, the league will expand as the pool of players does likewise.

    One interesting feature of this development is that the Chinese pro league is attempting to line up corporate sponsors for it, with candidates being Japanese sporting goods manufacturers as well as at least one British insurance company.

    China Baseball League players typically earn $600 to $1,000 per month. Though significantly higher than the average national income of $316 per year, salaries are a bargain compared to millions  American players command.

    In 2002 the Seattle Mariners signed Wang Chao, a 16 year old hurler from China. If the game spreads at all we could perhaps see professional Chinese baseballers in the majors. Certainly, if one looks at the signing by the Seattle Mariners of a 16 year old Chinese hurler this past season as well as the fact that Taiwanese outfielder Chin-feng Chen is about ready to join the Dodgers and that there is a slow trickle of players from Korea and Japan, the first ten years of the new millennium could be known as the Pacific Rim Decade in MLB.

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