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Yankees to help build interest in baseball in China

1/30/2007 - MLB New York Yankees

BEIJING -- The New York Yankees agreed Tuesday to send
coaches, scouts and trainers to China to help boost interest in
baseball, furthering a push by the major leagues into one of the
world's fastest-growing sports markets.

Under the agreement, the government-backed Chinese Baseball
Association will send staff to the Yankees' facilities in New York
and Tampa, Fla., while Yankees personnel will assist the Chinese
national team and others.

Yankees president Randy Levine said he hopes to start sending
coaches and other staff to China "in a few months."

"You can call this the great push for our industry in China,"
New York general manager Brian Cashman said at a news conference,
shortly after he and Levine donned the gray jackets and red caps of
the Chinese national team and gave navy Yankees warmup jackets and
caps to Chinese officials.

Though modest in scope, the agreement underscores baseball's big
ambitions for China. The world's most populous country, China has a
growing, prosperous middle-class and a sports market estimated to
be worth $10 billion-plus annually.

Other sports leagues have found success in building a fan base
and drawing revenue from China, most notably the NBA. Major League
Baseball also is trying to grow the game abroad, after the
International Olympic Committee eliminated the sport from the 2012
London Games because, among other reasons, it was not widely
played.

China "is a country that is clearly important to us as we look
to develop around the world," said Jim Small, MLB's general
manager for Asia.

But unlike the NBA, which is hugely popular in China and whose
games are shown on state television, baseball faces an uphill
struggle, as does the NFL, which has also launched a publicity
drive.

Baseball is not widely played in China, though its following in
high schools and universities is growing. The 4-year-old Chinese
Baseball League, which has 10 teams, has yet to find a wide
audience, either in stadiums or on TV. MLB games reach only a
fraction of China's audience, via satellite broadcasts.

MLB has been promoting baseball in China for six years, taking
batting cages to Chinese Baseball League stadiums, Small said.

China also fielded a team in the inaugural World Baseball
Classic last year.