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Major League Baseball Announces Opening of China's First Baseball Development Center
09/22/2009 2:50 PM ET

In response to the increasing popularity of baseball in China, Major League Baseball International (MLBI) will formally open a baseball development center in Wuxi, China on September 23. The Major League Baseball Development Center will be the first MLB baseball training facility in China that provides professional baseball training for middle school and high school-aged students within an academic school environment.

The MLB Development Center is located at Dongbeitang High School in Xishan District, Wuxi, which is located in the eastern part of China on the Yangtze River. The center has an international team of baseball instructors. In addition to receiving an excellent academic education, the students will receive baseball training and lessons in English to prepare the student athletes for global opportunities.

The city of Wuxi has witnessed a rapid development of baseball in recent years. The Wuxi Municipal Government and the Bureau of Sports Administration have supported the development of baseball stadiums, the creation of a professional baseball team and have cooperated with foreign baseball organizations to develop the sport of baseball in Wuxi. In addition, the Xishan District Government, the District Bureau of Education and the Bureau of Culture and Sports provided integral assistance in the establishment and opening of the MLB Development Center.

"One of the chief goals of Major League Baseball in China is increasing the popularity and participation of the game of baseball among young athletes," said Bob DuPuy, President and Chief Operating Officer, Major League Baseball, who will be in China to participate in the opening ceremony of the MLB Baseball Development Center. "The establishment of the MLB Development Center demonstrates Major League Baseball's commitment to expand the sport in China and to aid elite players in reaching their full competitive potential."

The MLB Development Center will provide a world-class facility for talented Chinese student athletes that will incorporate an innovative teaching model that combines school curriculum with improving baseball skills. Through this, MLBI expects these players to have numerous promising career opportunities that may include representing China in international play and playing professionally in Major League Baseball organizations.

In 2008, the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres met in the first-ever Major League Baseball games played in China during Spring Training. MLB China Series 2008 was held at the Wukesong Baseball Field in Beijing, the host venue for baseball during the 2008 Olympic Games, on March 15 and 16 and showcased MLB Clubs for fans in China for the first time. Later in 2008, Curtis Granderson, center fielder for the Detroit Tigers, became the first current Major League Baseball player to tour China promoting the game of baseball as an MLB International Ambassador.

MLBI launched Play Ball!, a grassroots youth baseball program, in elementary schools in Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Tianjin and Wuxi, China in 2007. Participating students are introduced to the rules of the game and instructed on developing their baseball skills as part of their in-school physical education programs. To date, the program has provided free baseball training and coaching instruction to 120 elementary schools reaching more than 120,000 children in China.

In addition, Major League Baseball Properties, Inc. has a representative office in Beijing, holds a yearly China Baseball Academy for elite young players, has licensed more than 80 MLB shops throughout China and has granted leading sports channels rights to broadcast MLB games in China, including the MLB All-Star Game and World Series.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.