For the first time since the Coronavirus outbreak, the world saw video of professional baseball over the weekend in Taiwan, sans fans.
Larry Richert spoke to family friend Kevin Johnson, Development Coach and Baseball Ambassador for Major League Baseball in China, via a video call on Monday about the popularity of baseball in China and that part of the world.
"It is not popular, obviously, as far as a sport goes, but that's a cultural thing as well," he said. "Culturally, sport is on the lower end. It's not like the other Asian countries, where you have, you know, South Korea or you have, say, Taiwan or you have Japan, in which baseball is a premiere sport. Over here, I find that academics takes everything, as far as their priorities."
There have been seven players from Kevin's academy that have been signed to play baseball in the United States and about 40 have gone to college.
Johnson said the impact of Coronavirus really hit him in mid-January when he returned following a Christmas break and was almost immediately put into Quarantine. He said their program has been shut down for about three months at this point and this past weekend was the first time they were able to go outdoors and start to get back into a normal routine.
Kevin is the last American working for Major League Baseball, at this moment, who was quarantined for eight weeks in his 29th floor apartment in Wuxi, China as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Going out during quarantine in China, he said, requires a series of checks before being permitted to leave. "When they talk about lockdown, it's a full-on lockdown. No businesses, no schools. Everything was shut down," he told Larry.
Johnson said at residential facilities, they can block all access points except one to be able to control the movement of people in or out. "You have to have an ID card. You have to have on your phone, a QR code, which basically identifies where you've been" and depending on a color-code associated with that location as well as a body temperature check, you may be permitted to enter or exit or you could be required to go into quarantine.
"That's pretty much anywhere you go. If you went to Starbucks, if you went to a shopping center, if you went out anywhere, you have to go through those procedures before you can do anything, really," he said.
Kevin told Larry that the Pittsburgh Pirates recently signed one of his academy's star players, who he says is a promising pitcher that will hopefully make it to the major leagues.
Kevin got his start Major League Baseball in China as a result of an association they had in Australia. Kevin used to help with many of their youth programs.