Padres warmly received in Beijing mall
Quartet of players spends time with autograph-seeking crowd
BEIJING -- It wasn't Tiffany singing at the mall by any means, but the four Padres who spent an hour on Thursday signing autographs at a Beijing shopping mall were certainly received well by any measure.
There were flashing lights and the likes of Linkin Park blaring from speakers, an estimated crowd of 300 and an introduction of the players that included a long "Kouz" for third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff.
In other words, the Padres went global on Thursday as they took a step to spread the word about baseball, signing autographs while hyping their two-game series against the Dodgers here this weekend.
"I honestly didn't think it would be that big," Padres reliever Heath Bell said regarding the turnout of fans, most of whom were in their 20s. "They don't have a lot of baseball here. I'm pretty happy.
"Maybe China will get more into baseball."
That is certainly the hope and that was why Bell, Kouzmanoff and relief pitchers Justin Germano and Trevor Hoffman volunteered to sign autographs at the APM Mall after spending a day visiting the Great Wall of China.
In addition to the autograph seekers in line, there were dozens of people taking in all the action from the mall concourse on the levels above -- many likely wondering what all the fuss was about and who the four Americans in similar jerseys were.
"I'm happy they kind of know who we are," Bell said, smiling.
Bell's wife, Nicole, stood and watched her husband from the side of the stage, noticing how much fun he was having. Nicole Bell, whose father is Chinese, came along on the trip to experience China for the first time.
"To me, it's awesome," she said. "I get to experience part of my culture ... something that I didn't know anything about."
Meanwhile, her husband was up on stage, signing away, smiling and conversing with the fans who were seeking autographs -- though he doesn't speak a lick of Chinese and they, presumably, don't know much English.
"This is his thing," Nicole Bell, mother of three, said. "If he didn't play baseball, he would be on TV. I joke that he's my fourth child. He's in his element here."
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.