The official U.S contingent, led by Cal Ripken and B.J. Surhoff, all rolled passed Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City en route to the baseball complex that will house next summer’s Olympic games here in Beijing.
There are two mini stadiums and Cal held court with about 20 folks from China, who all were proud to show off these stadia that are being built specifically for the games, and then will literally be torn down after next summer’s competition. These stadiums current hold less than 3,000 seats, but bleachers will be erected swelling the capacity to more than 12,000 when the Games begin.
The photo opportunities were plentiful, but the only media present where the three of us (Rick Maese of The Sun, the Renegade video crew and myself). It seems that the Chinese government didn’t want any negative publicity of the facilities, so they disallowed all other Western journalists from covering Cal Ripken’s photo op at the stadium.
Hey, it’s China. Some things never change! But suppression of free speech STILL exists in a major way here, and today we witnessed it.
Lots of notes from today (and of course, VIDEOS for wnsTV are forthcoming):
• I chatted with Cal briefly this evening before a State Department social at the home of the U.S. Ambassador to China here in Beijing about the language barrier with the kids he’s teaching. Today there was one group of 150 kids who had very little experience playing baseball. They played a version of “Quick Ball” with plastic bats and soft balls. The kids were lively and “had a lot of fun, which is the whole idea,” Ripken said. “The hardest part is getting through the language issue and showing them the way to do things.”
• My wife and I hit the Pearl Market, Tiananmen Square and Mao’s Tumb. China is just such a different place from anywhere we’ve been. The people are incredibly friendly, but virtually no one here speaks any appreciable English. We can’t even get a cabbie to get us a few miles away to a restaurant, so we can really appreciate what Ripken is going through trying to explain a “bunt” or a “pitch,” which have no literal translations in Mandarin Chinese.
• We’ve learned so much about the Chinese history and culture. Here’s an odd fact: Everyone here speaks some version of Chinese, but the differences in the dialect would make a person from the north and south of China unable to communicate verbally. They all read the written word the same way, but the way the words are spoken is different throughout China.
• Because Beijing is like Washington, D.C. (politically speaking), the open area near Tiananmen Square reminded us all of the Mall in D.C. Lots of people throughout China make this a “lifetime” visit when they come to Beijing. And the square is HUGE…about as long as the Mall as well.
• At tonight’s State Department mixer, we chatted at length with Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, who is a MAJOR baseball and Red Sox fan. He attended Game 2 of the World Series last week, and made several baseball references when he introduced Cal Ripken this evening. He was also a major Luis Aparicio fan, which was cool.
• MLB has several representatives here as well, including Director of Baseball Development for Asia, Rick Dell, a former College of New Jersey manager for many years. This mission here in China is two-pronged – one is to spread the seed of goodwill from the U.S. Government, the other is to spread the word of baseball to China, where the sport is a “non-existent” entity. The Chinese are passionate about soccer, basketball and table tennis. We met the managing editor of Sports Illustrated in China, and he said no one in China has any idea who Cal Ripken is. It is interesting seeing how Cal Ripken “blends in” where he is not a celebrity at all to anyone but a few Americans in the lobby of the hotel.
• I’ll be doing a special wnsTV piece on Sports Illustrated here in China. And YES, there is a Tiger Woods TagHeuer ad on the back of the magazine. There’s also a special “golf insert” in Mandarin with a picture of Phil Mickelson on the cover. BUT – Argentina’s Lionel Messi (he’s a SOCCER player, by the way) is the biggest star this week on the cover of the magazine here.
• It’s late Tuesday night here and the word from MLB’s Jim Small (who lives in Tokyo) is that I’m going to have a hard time finding the Ravens-Steelers game in Japan on Monday night/Tuesday morning. Remains to be seen. But I’m a quest to find the game! Stay tuned…
I’ve got gobs of videos that will be coming to wnsTV at some point. I’m too busy shooting videos to actually produce and platform them. But this has been some of the best stuff we’ve ever shot for the website.
We’re having a blast, we haven’t gotten sick from the food or water (YET!) and Cal Ripken’s people have just been sensational to work with here.
It’s one of those trips we’ll remember the rest of our lives.
More to come…