Two members of the Yi girls' baseball team learn how to use baseball glove. [Provided to Women of China/Liang Xuan]
Ten girls, each of whom is ethnic Yi and from the mountainous areas of southwest China's Sichuan province, have relocated to Beijing, where they have formed a baseball team. The youngest girl is 6, and the oldest is 11. When the girls' coach, Sun Lingfeng, took them away from the mountain, near the end of 2019, the girls knew nothing about baseball. Now, the small white ball appears to be changing their future. In addition to playing baseball, the girls have been learning how to do other things, such as make a cake and ride a bike. They have also enjoyed snowball fights. Sun says he hopes the girls will not only enjoy playing baseball, but will find more interesting things to include in their lives.
Ahead of this year's International Children's Day (June 1), a children's baseball game was held in eastern Beijing's Tongzhou district. During the match, 10 girls, who did not participate in the game, taught the players' parents some basic baseball movements, such as how to pitch and how to swing a bat. The girls taught their "adult students" carefully, and patiently, and, thus, won a lot of praise. By June, the girls had been learning how to play baseball for less than five months. They needed to practice more before they could compete in a game.
A Niu, a six-year-old primary school student (in Grade 1), has been taught how to write her name, and the names of her nine teammates. The girls like baseball, and they like drawing and painting. Many of the girls like to draw the image of a girl with long hair. "My hair was as long as (reaching) here," Er Luo, an 11-year-old girl, says, while she points at her waist. The girls used to have longer hair. For the convenience of playing baseball, they have cut their hair. Since they moved to Beijing, late last year, their coach, Sun, has been teaching them many things, such as how to make a cake and how to ride a bike. The girls enjoyed having snowball fights last winter. The girls trust and love Sun. They prefer to call Sun their "Dad."
A member of the Yi girls' baseball team shows a picture drawn by herself. [Provided to Women of China/Liang Xuan]
Sun is not trying to turn the girls into professional players; instead, he is hoping they will learn life lessons from their baseball games. For example, he explains, an excellent baseball player is good at analyzing the situation in the game, which changes continuously. The player judges how to move according to the character traits and playing habits of both his/her teammates and rivals. Sun believes through the observation, arrangement and execution needed to effectively play baseball one can develop what he calls the "wisdom" needed to reach achievements in other fields. Playing baseball has resulted in positive changes in Sun's life. He hopes the sport will also benefit the girls.
Sun was named to China's national baseball team when he was 18. He used to be a team leader, and he was named "most valuable player" of the China Baseball League. His "enlightenment coach" was Zhang Jinxin. What was Zhang's impression of Sun? "A naughty boy, who was not tall, but quite flexible in reaction, and with fast speed."
Members of the Yi girls' baseball team take a break during the training. [Provided to Women of China/Liang Xuan]
After Sun formed the Yi girls' baseball team, he asked Zhang to coach the girls for a few days. "I lived with the children for one week. Then I found it was hard to leave them. I thought they would still need me," says Zhang, who is 72.
One day, after Zhang returned to his dorm room, he found a slice of sweet melon on his table. "It was given to me by a little girl, who noticed I did not have melon during the meal. So, she took a piece for me," Zhang says. The girls are understanding, he adds. He believes he shoulders the responsibility of helping the girls seek a promising future.
"I think three or four of them are likely to be recruited by professional teams. The others can become coaches, or do baseball-related work. I hope playing baseball will help them gain an opportunity to enter a college. I ask them to study hard," Zhang explains.
Sun believes baseball will grow in popularity in China. He says he is "sowing a seed," And he is willing to wait for the "fruit to grow vigorously." Sun does his best to teach what he has learned to the Yi girls. "I hope they will one day be like a powerful engine, who drives more people to move forward," Sun says.
Members of the Yi girls' baseball team pose for a group photo. [Provided to Women of China/Liang Xuan]
(Women of China English Monthly August 2020 issue)