Major League Baseball signed an agreement with the Chinese Baseball Association to help with a revamp of the China National Baseball League.
A memorandum of strategic cooperation was signed yesterday as part of a relaunch of the CNBL, with two teams – the Tianjin Lions and the Beijing Tigers – playing in a season opener.
Chen Xu, the president of the CBA, said according to China Daily: “After years of the sport being popularized and integrated into pop culture and now re-entering the Olympics, it’s time to try to build up to the top of the pyramid. Over the next 15 years, we are looking to build the CNBL into a mature league with a modern professional system that appeals to talent from neighboring countries.”
Baseball will return to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics after being omitted in the 2012 and 2016 Games.
MLB’s senior vice-president of international business Jim Small said: “The Chinese baseball market has great potential for growth, and with the sport part of the 2020 Olympic Games, I’m sure these efforts will help take the baseball to the next level, and the MLB will be glad to be apart of it all.”
The CNBL was created in 2002, but was suspended twice in 2012 and 2017 due to a lack of funding and fan interest. It will become the sporting league with the least number of teams in China, with just four teams from Beijing, Tianjin, Guangdong and Jiangsu, playing 18 rounds of home and away games over seven weeks.
The two top teams after the regular rounds will then face off in a best-of-five championship final series in October.