China's Ballplayers Prepare for First Olympics
There are low expectations for the team, but it has come a long way
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Jul 5, 2008 11:19 AM CDT
A crowd watches as China plays Japan at a test event for the Olympics, in Beijing, Monday, Aug. 20, 2007.    (AP Photo/Greg Baker)
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(Newser) – China’s Olympic baseball team, under the guidance of an ex-Major League manager, has some hurdles to jump in its first Olympics. After Mao Zedong banned the Western sport in China, it never drew many fans–so the team uses second-rate facilities and generally faces overwhelming odds against other teams. But the big leagues have spent millions to push the sport in China’s huge market, the New York Times reports.

Former Seattle Mariners manager Mark Lefebvre heads to the country twice a year to help out the team, which makes annual US trips to play American teams. This year, its 22-9-2 record denotes marked improvement. “Our goal is not to become Olympic champions, but to play the game right,” Lefebvre says. “We just don’t want to be embarrassed out there, you know?”