By Michael Rand
Paige Bromen, a junior on the U of M women’s golf team, checks in with Part III of her report from China, where she is studying Sports Globalization in conjunction with the upcoming Olympics.
First thing this morning our study-abroad group headed off to the Temple of Heaven, the Emperor’s former palace used to pray for good harvests. The site is now open to the public and is widely used by locals as a place for exercise. Walking around we witnessed all kinds of sports participation; from hackysack to tai chi, hundreds of people congregated to stay fit and socialize in mostly non-competitive games. One sport, imported from Korea, is a combination of lacrosse and catch played with leather paddles. My friends and I were invited to play, and we jumped at the opportunity (pictured). We had a suspicion that the invitation was just a clever sales tactic; you see, rarely has anyone been overly-friendly to us in the “touristy areas” without having ulterior motives. Nevertheless, the game was fun (I did end up buying it) and overall, the varying forms of exercise and the amount of people participating in them was fun to see. Something like that would never have occurred in the United States.
In the afternoon, Dai Peiyou, a local expert on baseball, teamwork and business, took our group to watch the Beijing Tigers Professional Baseball team practice. The Tigers are one of six professional teams in China and boast eight players from the Chinese National team. While watching batting practice, one of the players, Gil Kim, gave the group an insider’s perspective on the team’s season and training habits. The former Vanderbilt second baseman compared the skill level of the team to a rookie league squad in the U.S., saying, “There are some really talented guys here, but they just don’t have the experience and background to compete at a higher level yet.” With many players beginning their baseball careers around middle school, as they are recruited from other sports to play, and only a 30-game season, development is often slow. I guess just like baseball in the United States, there is no substitute for competitive experience.