Kenneth Huang (Huang Jianhua, 黄健华), is now betting on baseball’s development in China, making a major move in the sport here through one of his companies, QSL Sports Limited. QSL has formed a partnership with the Chinese Baseball Association to develop the Chinese Youth Baseball League (CYBL).
“Japanese, Korean and Taiwanese players get to play in the best leagues in the world and so will the Chinese,” said Huang, the Chinese-born, U.S.-educated businessman who is leading a Chinese company’s purchase of a stake in the Cleveland Cavaliers. “It is my belief that China, as a sports-loving nation, has immense potential in offering great talent to the world of baseball at the highest levels. This partnership with CBA turns a new page in the development of baseball in China.”
The deal involves a multi-million-dollar, 10-year commitment, and QSL intends for it to be a revenue generator in its own right, though sponsorship, merchandising, broadcasting and player management. Marc Ganis, the owner of Chicago-based SportsCorp Limited, will play a key role in setting the league’s framework and bringing in coaching talent. Huang and Ganis together created SportsCorp China, which has arranged China marketing deals with the New York Yankees and the Houston Rockets.
“I look forward to seeing more Chinese players take their places in Major League Baseball just like Yao Ming does in the NBA,” Huang said. “I am confident that our effort will help grow in China a love of the game in the near future.”
The release makes no mention of any involvement in the deal on the part of Major League Baseball. The MLB staged a double-header in Beijing last year between the San Diego Padres and the Los Angeles Dodgers, but the site of that game–Wukesong Baseball Stadium–is an Olympic venue slated for destruction. The league is putting on a five-city road show between now and October, with stops in Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, Wushi and Chengdu.
Is this good or bad for the MLB? The league certainly seems like it could use an assist in its China efforts. It couldn’t save Wukesong, has no broadcast deal in China and last year’s MLB China Games were only a mild success. Nor has there been any development of ballparks to speak of. The MLB has good people with good intentions working on its behalf in China, but there are definitely some missing pieces. Maybe Huang and QSL can bring in some of those pieces. Any success they have with the CYBL will have to involve giving kids something to dream about–and playing in the MLB is still the ultimate in baseball dreams. The risk for the league is not so much of him creating a brand that supplants the MLB here, but of him setting the terms of the league’s future in China.
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Tags: baseball, Huang Jianhua, Kenny Huang, MLB