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Making a pitch for Chinese talent

Updated: 2013-12-10 07:37
By Yang Xinwei ( China Daily)

Veteran Guthrie impressed with homegrown baseball skills

For most people, having a haircut is simply a question of personal style and hygiene.

But for Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Jeremy Guthrie, getting his locks shorn is a ritual for maintaining the kind of mental focus that is crucial to success on the mound.

 Making a pitch for Chinese talent

Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Jeremy Guthrie demonstrates his technique to players at the MLB Development Center in Changzhou, Jiangsu province, over the weekend. Guthrie is one of the MLB ambassadors who are sharing their passion for the game with fans and players in seven developing baseball countries. Photos Provided to China Daily

"That's how I zone in on what I need to accomplish and how I need to execute to be good that day," said the 34-year-old who set the Royals' club record for consecutive undefeated starts last season with 18.

Guthrie was at the Major League Baseball Development Center in Changzhou, Jiangsu province, at the weekend to share his skills, experience and passion for the game with student players.

"When I was young, whenever I got a haircut I was usually thinking of what I needed to do on the mound to be successful. So now I usually cut my hair right before every start; it has become a routine every time I pitch."

Guthrie said mental focus was very important for pitchers, but even more crucial was the inner confidence to get out of tough situations like loading the bases or fighting back from an 3-0 count.

"It is very important to stay positive in your mind because it helps you to understand how to face struggles and deal with hard times. So you need to be mentally prepared to stay confident when things are going bad," he said.

Guthrie is one of several players serving as MLB Ambassadors this offseason. Besides China, they are also taking the game to the Netherlands, France, South Africa, Brazil, Australia and New Zealand.

The MLB Development Center in Changzhou is one of two such facilities in China. The other is at Wuxi. They provide talented Chinese student athletes in grades 7-12 with a world-class program that combines a mainstream school curriculum with baseball skills development.

"In underdeveloped areas these centers are a great way to grow interest in the sport and find talent," Guthrie said, adding he was very impressed with the Chinese model.

"I've been to many other countries to help out with baseball. The coaches here in China are making a big difference. With their dedication, the hitters are polished, the pitchers have phenomenal mechanics and great arms. I can see that baseball in this country is more advanced thanks to the program here.

"These students have all of the talent you need at this age, and if they continue to grow and learn, they will have a chance to play professionally and maybe even find a spot in the Major Leagues," said Guthrie, who has also pitched for the Cleveland Indians, Baltimore Orioles and Colorado Rockies after graduating from Stanford University, where he majored in sociology.

On another note, Guthrie said he is looking forward to MLB's expansion of video replays next season.

"I'm in favor of it," he said. "Ultimately the players and the pitchers want the call to be correct, and if it takes a little bit of extra time to change the call and make it correct, we are in favor of that.

"It will slow down the game a little bit, but they have been good on making decisions quickly. The umpires have done a fairly good job with that."

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