O'Malley predicts China will become power

Former Los Angeles Dodgers owner Peter O'Malley predicts China will become the next world baseball power. O'Malley, who first came to China in 1980, built the first baseball stadium in the country. Now he's suggesting another milestone could be reached very soon.

    "Japan, Korea and Taiwan all have filled the Major Leagues with players," O'Malley said Friday in Beijing. "China is going to come along, and when China does they are going to blow by everybody else — they're going to knock them over.

"My guess is there are several players here who are ready to be signed after the Beijing Olympics — I'll predict that."  

The Dodgers have deep roots in international baseball, dating back to training camps in Cuba and the Dominican Republic, and pitchers like Mexico's Fernando Valenzuela and Japan's Hideo Nomo.  

O'Malley, 69, built the China baseball stadium — named Dodger Stadium — in the coastal city of Tianjin in 1986. Lights have been recently added, suiting its stature as the country's top baseball park.  

"That has helped so much the growth of baseball in China," said Cai Jizhou, a retired former vice president of the Chinese Baseball Federation — and a long-time friend of O'Malley's. Cai said the facility is one of about 10 baseball stadiums in China.  

Searching abroad for sports talent is common now, but it wasn't in 1956 when O'Malley joined the Dodgers — World Series winners in 1955 — on a 30-day goodwill tour of Japan.  

"We played the Tokyo Giants with Jackie Robinson, Gil Hodges, Pee Wee Reese — the great team of the 50s," O'Malley said. "I was a young man, and I was thrilled and amazed to see baseball in another country."  

"Later as the owner, I wanted the Dodger team in Los Angeles to reflect the makeup of the city, and LA has people from all over."  

O'Malley, who sold the Dodgers in 1998, calls himself "retired," but made the trip to Beijing to attend the International Baseball Federation congress. That body elected American Harvey Schiller on Friday as its new president.   Schiller's first job is to get baseball back into the Olympics. Baseball was dropped in 2005 by the International Olympic Committee, but will be played in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The IOC could reinstate it as early as 2009, which means it could return to the 2016 Olympics. It won't be played in 2012 in London.  

"China in my opinion has the brightest future of any country in baseball," O'Malley said. "But we've got to get it back in the Olympics, and it's going to be tough.  

"We must get recognized by the IOC again, because that's important to the development of baseball in China and around the world."

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