Baseballs Efforts in China May Show Up at the Draft
By: Ray Zhao
DJ Suonandajie is a 24-year-old baseball player. At a recent Ban Johnson summer collegiate league game in Kansas City, Missouri, he had several great at bats. But, using “proud” to describe the feelings of DJ’s high school coach, Ray Chang, would be a vast understatement.
According to The New York Times’ Brad Lefton, “Chang is the manager of baseball operations for Major League Baseball’s player development initiative in China, a program offering academic and baseball schooling to students from seventh grade through high school. The first development center was established in Wuxi in 2009.” Additional development centers have opened in places like Changzhou and Nanjing.
DJ, who stands at a little under 6 feet, is from Tibet. His talent was found by MLB recruiters scouring China for baseball athletes, where they were amazed by DJ’s running speed and his throwing accuracy, two things vital to any MLB player.
According to baseball reference, only one Chinese-born player has made it to the MLB, but these recruiters might change that, already having recruited nine players.
Lefton also reports: “by attending college in the United States, DJ and a few other players represent a new pathway in the development process that could ultimately lead to a watershed moment in MLB’s foray into China: the first-year player draft.” Previously, the path for their development was to sign as international free agents. Now, there are new opportunities for international players looking to join the MLB.
Because of new guidelines, DJ is eligible for the MLB’s annual draft because he is enrolled in a US college. This year’s draft, beginning Sunday (7/24/2022) and running for 72 hours, is still only available for players in the US and Canada.
The Philadelphia Phillies’ manager Bryan Minniti thinks MLB is getting closer to seeing more Chinese players. He says, “From a scouting perspective, every team is hungry for players with tools, and it doesn’t matter where they come from.”