An emergence of baseball-version of Yao Ming, former NBA basketball star, will help boost the popularity of the game in China, said an official with Major League Baseball (MLB) on Thursday.
"Go find us a baseball-version of Yao Ming, and that helps," Al Leiter, an analyst with MLB Network, said not without humor answering questions by Xinhua at a briefing at Yankee Stadium in New York, on the upcoming World Baseball Classic, a global tournament jointly operated by MLB and the MLB Players Association.
In his response, Chris Park, MLB Senior Vice President, Strategy, Growth & International, said that the game has witnessed a quite rapid growth, mainly with grass root efforts though, in the past decade in China. "This tournament comes right as a reflection of progress that has been made in China as well as a showcase for that progress," Park said. "Best wishes to Team China!"
China will be playing in Pool B. Other teams in the pool include Championship contender Japan, Cuba, and Australia.
The WBC 2017, which is slated on March 6-22, will be the fourth installment of the tournament, following 2006, 2009 and 2013.
The Champions of the three events were Japan in 2006 and 2009 and the Dominican Republic in 2013.
First round venues in the 2017 WBC include Marlins Park in Miami, Florida, U.S.; the Tokyo Dome in Tokyo, Japan; the Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul, South Korea; and the Estadio de Beisbol Charros de Jalisco in Jalisco, Mexico.
Second round venues include the Tokyo Dome and Petco Park in San Diego, U.S.. Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles, U.S., will host the Semi-Finals and Finals.