China suffered a confidence-eroding loss on Tuesday at the Tokyo Dome, falling 17-0 to the Yomiuri Giants in a World Baseball Classic exhibition.
Ask China manager Jim Lefebvre the kind of journey his squad has made leading up to the World Baseball Classic, and he will tell you it is beyond description. And it is ongoing.
Four countries with varied baseball histories converge in Tokyo this weekend for the first round of games in the inaugural World Baseball Classic.
The Chinese national team has come a long way in a short time, and the World Baseball Classic offers the biggest challenge yet for the team that will represent China in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.
Pitchers across Asia are used to throwing baseballs with horsehide covering, but in the World Baseball Classic, they'll be using balls that are covered in cowhide. That's nothing to fuss about, you might say, but some of the hurlers in Group A beg to differ.
There are such obvious similarities in the way he looks, and the way he plays, Sun Lingfeng has been called "The Ichiro of China." But Lingfeng isn't sure about the accuracy of the comparison.
China is one of just two countries in the WBC without any players under contract to a Major League team, so manager Jim Lefebvre is focusing on fundamentals for his inexperienced squad.
History of baseball in China
When former Major League manager Jim Lefebvre received a phone call three years ago asking him to manage a team located half a world away, in a country where table tennis was far more popular than baseball, he needed some time to think about it.
Japanese legend Sadaharu Oh, former Major Leaguer Jim Lefebvre and former Yankees Luis Sojo and Roberto Kelly are a few of the six managers already selected to head some of the 16 teams participating in next year's World Baseball Classic.