The Yankees hope to inspire Chinese youth with trophy

By Liu Zhen and Nick Mulvenney

BEIJING (Reuters) - The New York Yankees showed off the World Series trophy in China's capital Wednesday, hoping to inspire young Chinese to aspire to winning baseball's greatest prize.

Baseball in China has been hard hit by the sport's removal from the Olympics but the Yankees also brought some good news with them when it was confirmed that the Beijing Games stadium would be rebuilt in the southeastern port city of Xiamen.

"We feel it is a great opportunity here in China to continue to grow the game of baseball," Brian Cashman, general manager of Yankees, told a news conference.

"And hopefully one day a citizen of China will participate and help a Major League Baseball team win a world championship, just like many members who have already done so from other countries now."

Despite Premier Wen Jiabao being a fan and its overwhelming popularity in Taiwan, baseball is a distant second to the hugely successful NBA in the ranks of American sporting exports to China.

The loss of Olympic status after the 2008 Beijing Games was a big blow as China's state sports system focuses almost all of its energy and cash on success in Olympic sports.

The Yankees are doing their best to help out and created a partnership with the Chinese Baseball Association (CBA) three years ago, the first between the CBA and an MLB club.

STADIUM REBUILD

"What we gonna try to do is to expose it a little more here in conjunction with the experts of Chinese Baseball Association and the Chinese people," Yankees President Randy Levine said.

"We are not presumptuous enough to say what's gonna be successful but we are here just trying to help give kids choices and opportunity to decide."

CBA chairman Lei Jun announced that the Wukesong Baseball Field, the only one in China to have witnessed major league players, would be rebuilt in southeastern city of Xiamen.

"This plan started as early as November 2008, when the field was demolished," Lei said. "It is the only case so far that an Olympic heritage being relocated as a whole in the world."

The venue, which hosted two exhibition games between the San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers in March 2008, was always intended to be a temporary venue.

The MLB opened a development center in Wuxi, Jiangsu Province last year, which provides professional baseball training for Chinese youngsters in an academic environment with the goal of producing professionals.

(Editing by John O'Brien)