Baseball: Could Efforts in China Appear at the Draft and MLB?
By: Yifei Mei
In Kansas City, when a batter, known as DJ, stopped at second base on a ball he had ripped down the first-base line. It required the team’s fasted runner, DJ, to do what the situation was asking rather risking an inning-end out at third.
When Ray Chang, DJ’s high school coach, heard about this story, he was bursting with pride. Chang is over 7,000 miles away in Nanjing, China.
“That’s awesome. I love hearing that”, Chang said by phone. Chang was born and raised in the US. “Our main focus is talking about the ins and outs and the strategies of the game because when these kids come to us, they are so far behind where a U.S. kid would be in terms of experience playing and watching the game.”
Chang is the manager of baseball operations for Major League Baseball’s player development initiative in China, the program offers academic and baseball schooling to students from seventh grade and all the way to high school. The first development center was established in 2009, Wuxi. Additional centers were opened in Changzhou, 2011 and Nanjing, 2014. Chang is also head coach of the Nanjing center, and has been working in China full-time since 2017, after retiring from a 12-season league career.
DJ is a 24-year-old native of Qinghai, a region apart of Tibet who’s identified as Fnu Suonandajie on his visa documents. Fnu isn’t a name, as it stands for First Name Unknown. Suonandajie isn’t a family name either, it was given to him by a monk when he was young.
At 5 feet 8 inches and 184 pounds, DJ plays center field. He didn’t play baseball until he was 10. He was discovered by M.L.B recruiters who scout China for promising athletes to send to their middle school program in Changzhou in 2011.
Chang said, “honestly, for me, this is a blessing. Facing the shock of a new culture and the rigors of 144-game minor league seasons, which is so many more games than they’ve played in a season here, at 17 years old, is incredibly challenging. The college route allows more time to ease into the new culture and prepare you better to handle the grind of minor league baseball, if you’re lucky enough to get that opportunity.”