I can’t do a better job than this NYT article at describing this Saturday’s baseball game between the LA Dodgers and San Diego Padres here in beautiful Beijing. It was apparently the first time in history that Major League Baseball has played in China, a country that apparently only has 100 baseball diamonds, total.
Yesterday was beautiful: cherry blossoms in bloom, the crystal blue sky dotted with rare poofy white clouds: the perfect day to sit in a Division III college sized baseball stadium and watch two professional teams up close and personal, with a handful of non-comprehending Chinese fans and a sizable chunk of Americans who were mostly there to see each other and enjoy the sunshine. At Wukesong Stadium, you could forget about the other breaking news going on in China right now (that I don’t feel comfortable writing about on a blog or even email), and instead focus on the animated hot dogs racing each other across the Jumbotron, the inflatable Padres’ friar mascot dancing with minimalistically-clad Chinese cheerleaders, the programs that didn’t even list the team’s lineup, and every once in a while, the game itself. My favorite part of the afternoon, which the article left out, was when the bleacher creatures started the Wave. I didn’t expect that, especially since none of the other attempts to rally up the fans seemed to work. But there it went, looping around the entire stadium two or three times, and even getting the normally too-cool VIP section to join in.
It was so odd being there, as baseball is an American sport, like apple pie is an American pie. No one at the game I talked to thinks that baseball will take off in this country, with reasons given ranging from poverty (requires too much equipment), land constraints (requires a specialized field), image (too clean cut — Chinese students prefer the counter-culture of tough guy basketball), or even tensions with Japan (where the baseball is well loved).
But we’ll see. Baseball is a game of patience, and we’re only in the bottom of the first.