TOKYO: Although China made a quick exit from the World Baseball Classic, the future of the sport in the country is "bright", manager Terry Collins says.
Beijing Olympic champions South Korea knocked China out of the tournament's all-Asian Pool A with a lopsided 14-0 win on Sunday. Earlier, China put up a good fight against Japan, falling 4-0, and upset Taiwan, 4-1.
"I really hope this success that Team China showed in the way they played here in the first two games does create some interest in baseball in China," said Collins.
"As I said the whole week long, I think the future is bright for Team China," said the 59-year-old American, who managed the Astros and the Angels in the 1990s.
Collins took over the Chinese team in December to help them prepare for the Classic, replacing another former major league manager Jim Lefebvre, who had taken the club to an eighth-place finish at last August's Beijing Games.
Lefebvre had managed the team since 2003, helping to bring it back from the brink of anonymity. China's professional league was also launched in full in 2003.
At the inaugural Classic in 2006, the Chinese lost all three of their games by a combined score of 40-6. In Beijing, they lost six games but made history with an 8-7 upset of Taiwan.
"I believe China will become a big threat in the future," admitted Taiwan Manager Yeh Chih-Shien.
Collins said China, which won the most Olympic gold medals in Beijing with 51, had a huge pool of athletic talent from which to draw players with strong potential.
He said he hoped "baseball would be the sport they might want to participate in."
"It's going to take some time, certainly. It doesn't happen overnight," said Collins.
"But they've got some skills. I saw some real good things in the months that I was with the team. They really dig in a lot when they start the game," he said.
Collins, who also managed the Orix Buffaloes in Japan's Pacific League in 2007-2008, said some of his players needed to get "bigger and stronger" and that "some power can come into the Chinese game."
China's 28-man squad included three US-based players - pitcher Liu Kai and catcher Zhang Zhenwang, who are in the New York Yankees farm system, as well as Chinese-American Ray Chang, a minor leaguer for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Liu and Zhang signed with the Yankees in June 2007 as MLB was eyeing market growth potential in the world's most populous nation as part of its campaign to globalize America's national pastime.
Clean-up hitter Feng Fei, who had one of China's two hits against South Korea with a double, said the Chinese club was looking to foster more competitive rivalries in Asia.
"We fought Japan and South Korea to learn something," said Feng, a 26-year-old outfielder for the Sichuan Dragons who also played in the inaugural Classic in 2006 and on the recent Olympic team.
"But I think someday we will hopefully catch up with them."Source: China Daily/Agencies