THE BABE RUTH OF CHINA
THE GREAT CHINA BASEBALL HUNT takes viewers on MLB’s improbable, ongoing hunt for China baseball talent. Simon Huang is the guide for the China segments. Viewers can assess the scout’s pitch -- he’s asking prospects to buy into a baseball dream. The crew is also filming life at MLB’s Development Centers. There we see kids adjusting to this cross-cultural experiment -- to living away from home and learning about America, baseball and hot dogs as well as about their own country.
While China represents the entertaining big picture, Itchy – Simon’s pupil – is the character in whom audiences are likely to become emotionally engaged. He’s genuine and sincere. We follow his progress as he navigates the Orioles’ minor-league system, documenting the inevitable ups and downs and cultural adjustments to life in American baseball. His journey is the personification of MLB’s experiment.
Dramatic tension comes from Itchy's big moments. How will he fare at these pivotal times-- his first at-bats in the American minor leagues, and representing China in the World Baseball Classic? The latter tournament was held at the Tokyo Dome in front of the largest crowd Itchy had ever played before.
The story is told from multiple perspectives. It includes exclusive interviews with Cal Ripken, the Hall of Fame player who traveled to China to promote the sport in 2007. A big moment comes in Maryland when Ripken meets Itchy, who is wearing a wireless mic so that their surprising conversation is captured.
The film cuts between the China hunt (the film’s backbone) and Itchy and the Chinese prospects vying to make the big leagues. Because of the long odds they face, these players are underdogs akin to the lead character in “Don’t Stop Believin,’” the 2013 documentary about Journey’s lead singer directed by Ramona Diaz, a consultant to the film.
Cuts between China and the United States reinforce differences and underscore how far Itchy is from his home. Included are scenes of a 2018 tour of the US by the Blue Sox Academy, one of a rising number of private youth baseball clubs in China, whose eight- and nine-year-old ballplayers traveled to the United States to learn about baseball and American life.
The film began production in March 2016 with Itchy’s first US spring in Sarasota, Florida. We have filmed in China (including the remote Tibetan Autonomous Region) and Tokyo as well as in Florida and Maryland.