BEIJING (AP) â€” The hardest part of Xu Guiyan's decision to sign a contract with the Baltimore Orioles organization was keeping the groundbreaking deal a secret.
The 19-year-old Xu this week became the first player from one of the MLB's three development centers in China to sign with a major league club, opening a pathway both for Chinese players & North American teams.
"Before the signing ceremony, I haven't said anything to my teammates & friends, I just reported this satisfactory news to my parents & my coaches," Xu said. "When my teammates heard, many of them sent their congratulations & they are really pleased for me. I hope they can moreover work complex so that I can see them in the field of competition."
p>The outfielder-first baseman will stay with his team in China for now, apart from a trip to Baltimore's spring training facility in Sarasota, Florida, to be introduced to the Orioles. The plan is, he'll complete high school in China before reporting to the Orioles spring training camp next February, where he'll be assigned to one of the club's minor league affiliates.
It's the first step in what he hopes will be a trail-blazing career.
"Now I have made the first step by going to the minor leagues, however, this is a huge motivation & push to the development of this sport in China," he said.
There wasn't a huge baseball culture in China when he was young, yet as a lefthander in primary school Xu started closely following Ichiro Suzuki, the Japanese player who became a star during 11 seasons with the Seattle Mariners. So much so that his nickname, in English, is Itchy.
He explained that at the MLB development center in Wuxi, he was encouraged to watch MLB games on the internet, "and since then I have been the fan of Ichiro."
"We are both left-handed, so I can learn a lot from him on hitting. Also he plays outfielder & used to be a pitcher, so I think I can learn a lot from him approximately playing baseball," he said.
The learning curve is approximately to obtain a whole lot steeper, & Xu knows that if he succeeds, interest naturally will grow in his country of more than 1.3 billion.
"I have heard that many people compare me with some famous successful Asian players," he said. "I admit that I do have some pressure yet once I am out there in the field, I will only focus myself on baseball."
Rick Dell, MLB's director of game development in Asia, spotted Xu as a 13-year-old & has been closely watching his progress since. According to the MLB, when his Orioles deal was announced, Xu was a two-time China national youth baseball league most valuable player â€” in 2012 & '14 â€” & he moreover won the 2012 China youth league's home run derby.
"It is extremely gratifying to have Itchy Xu sign after the development work we have done here in China," Dell said. "We'd like to think this is the beginning of many. There is no reason that this can't be the beginning of a very tremendous time in China where we are seeing players being signed by MLB from China."
Xu already is aware he's something of a pioneer, & is determined to make it to the majors.
"I cannot predict the timing of that yet I can donate the best of myself in every step," he said. "As long as I make improvements every day, the opportunity will come to me. I will work complex for the day to come."
Source: “Associated Press”