This post is part of the beijingkids’ parenting guest blogger program. If you want to part of this program, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Sometime in our first or second year in Changping, the kids and I were walking past the sports fields of China Univeristy of Political Science and Law
, or, as it it known locally, Zhengfa
. It was late afternoon. There was a soccer scrimmage taking place on the soccer pitch in the center, and several students running or walking around the track that circumscribed the field. In one corner just outside the track, we saw someone in a baseball uniform taking batting practice in a fenced-in area. We were surprised, unaware that there was any interest in baseball in China, and guessed that surely the students in the batting cage were Asian foreigners from somewhere else (like the US or maybe Korea, which has a huge baseball culture).
Off and on we’ve walked past this are since then, and we have never again seen anyone taking BP. We eyed the cage, appearing abandoned yet inviting. As Myles started playing baseball, we wondered how we could get ourselves in there to have some batting practice. It would be a lot safer for everyone involved that the way we have been doing it, trying not to hit anyone else in a public sports field in another part of Changping. An American friend who attended Zhengfa for a year recommended we just walk on to campus and use it, but I was always afraid we would be asked to leave.
Recently we’ve met another Changping resident that is involved in baseball at a game between Myles’ rec league team and a local Chinese team. We were both surprised to make each other’s acquaintance in Shunyi, Changpingren who share a common interest in baseball. Having worked for MLB Asia at a time, this coach currently works with Zhengfa’s baseball team. He invited us to come use their practice facilities next time he was on campus.
When we went for the first time earlier this week, I was reminded of the situation Rowan Simons described in his book Bamboo Goalposts.
He worked at getting a football pitch built, a regulation-sized spot of grass that would allow for a proper match between amateur teams. It was a struggle for him, getting approvals and anyone else to cooperate with his vision. Prior to that, he organized matches on whatever piece of land he could get.
The baseball program at Zhengfa has truly carved out a space for themselves in the athletic grounds at the University. Like Simons’ early football pitches in Bamboo Goalposts, Zhengfa’s baseball team has improvised their training facilities in a small, allotted space. Squeezed in the D-shape between the soccer goal and the bend in the track is this mock-up of home base, a pitcher’s mound, and first base.
The scale is off for game play, and there is no second base, but it works for drills and explaining the mechanics. And for people who really love the game, who are really motivated to practice and play no matter what, it’s perfect. They have given themselves room to move and the time to play.
For games, Zhengfa’s team takes advantage of visiting other colleges (like Tsinghua University) that have baseball fields, or one of the (slowly) growing number of fields in other parts of Beijing. When push comes to shove, though,and the game has to be played on campus, they have placed playground bases on the soccer pitch, and cones to show the homerun line.
And, finally, we were able to use the batting cage. After all this time.
This post first appeared on Jennifer Ambrose’s site jenambrose.com on November 14, 2013
Jennifer Ambrose hails from Western Pennsylvania and misses it terribly. She still maintains an intense devotion to the Pittsburgh Steelers. She has lived in China since 2006 and is currently an at-home mother. With her husband Randy and children Myles and Brigid, she resides outside the Sixth Ring Road in Changping, northwest of Beijing
Photo courtesy of Jennifer Ambrose