Kids stepping up to plate as MLB's efforts reap rewards

"Let's play ball!" was the roar from the kids as the fall season of the MLB Cup Open Youth Baseball Tournament swung into action over the weekend at Guangzhou Tianhe Sports Center in Guangdong province.
Over 29 teams across three age groups are participating in the latest edition of the competition, underlining just how far the sport has come since MLB first established a presence in China in 2007.
According to the 2019 Baseball Development White Paper, China's "baseball population" totals over 20 million, with over 60 percent of baseball's "active population" taking up the sport since 2016.
"Now more than 2 million children are playing and experiencing baseball through MLB activities. The MLB Cup Open Youth Baseball Tournament has grown in the past 13 years, from a single age group-under-12s-to five age groups, and from five cities to more than 20", said Tony Qi, managing director of MLB China.
Qi outlined a multitude of reasons why baseball is a perfect sport for kids.
"All sports benefit children to a certain extent, but baseball is especially beneficial to the healthy development of children's bodies and minds. It's competitive but not adversarial, and therefore doesn't have a high requirement of physical fitness, and there's a relatively small chance of injury," he explained.
Because baseball is also a highly strategic game, it requires a lot of thinking and flexibility in regard to tactics.
"A key element of baseball is sacrifice, sacrificing yourself to help the team win. This is unique among all team sports," Qi said.
This year, MLB is also working with Guangzhou Tianhe Qihui School, a special education institution, in order to encourage more kids to pick up bats and gloves. Disabled children don't usually get the chance to take part in baseball competitions, and MLB believes it has a responsibility to provide more opportunities for them.
"Although these kids may not be able to compete to the same level as other children, through the games organized by MLB, they can enjoy more fun on the playground and de

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