The World Baseball Softball Confederation celebrated a significant step in the development of softball in China with the launch of the China Sports Foundation – Yan Fang Softball Fund. It followed the signing of an agreement between Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games silver medallist Yan Fang and the China Sports Foundation in Beijing in July. Yan donated RMB 2 million ($283,000) to support the development of junior softball players as part of the agreement.
“China is one of the fastest growing countries for softball in the world and Yan Fang’s important contribution will give the sport an even greater boost, especially at the youth level,” WBSC President Riccardo Fraccari said. “Softball’s values of community culture and team spirit continue to shine through and WBSC is proud of how softball and baseball continues to keep former players in the game, whether it be through coaching, managing or leadership, to help give back to the sport they love.”
At the fund inauguration ceremony, Yan said: “Softball has occupied the most important time in my life. Since entering the national team at the age of 17, I collected a gold medal at the Junior World Championship, as well as many other awards. All these achievements are attributed to my country, my coaches and my teammates, so I sincerely appreciate softball, as well as to everyone who has helped me. My main purpose of setting up this fund is to support the growth of Chinese softball and I am so glad to make this little contribution to continue to carry forward the softball spirit. I sincerely hope that this fund will be helpful to the development of youth softball and promote prosperity and development of Chinese softball.”
Born in Beijing in 1969, Yan became an outstanding female softball player, going onto captain the national women’s softball team. In 1996, she won the silver medal for women’s softball in the Atlanta Olympic Games and finished 4th in the Sydney Olympic Games. Moreover, she won three consecutive championships in the Asian Games in 1990, 1994 and 1998.
China is currently ranked 8th in the WBSC World Rankings and the national team is currently competing in the U-19 Women’s Softball World Cup in Irvine, USA where they qualified for the Super Round.
Baseball’s growth in China is also impressive, headlined by the creation of a player development program last year where 30 players and coaches of the Chinese National Team feature on the roster – including 13 on each playing roster – of the Texas AirHogs, a member of the South Division of the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball.
The project is backed by the Chinese Ministry of Sport, the National Olympic Committee, the Chinese Baseball Federation and received a fundamental support from Shougang Sports, a branch of Shougang Group, one of China’s largest steel companies.
Baseball in China has programs at 80 different colleges and 10 teams in the professional China Baseball League with a total of 40 new baseball facilities having been built in the last two decades.