THE BABE RUTH OF CHINA
A BILLION TO ONE takes viewers on MLB’s improbable, ongoing hunt for China baseball talent. Simon Huang is the engaging guide for the China segments. Viewers can assess the scout’s pitch -- he’s asking prospects to buy into a dream of becoming famous and wealthy. The crew will also film life at MLB’s development centers. There we’ll see how kids are 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, it’s Itchy – Simon’s pupil and most promising catch – in whom the audience is likely to become emotionally invested. He is naturally genuine and sincere. We will follow his progress as he navigates the Orioles’ minor-league system, documenting the inevitable ups and downs and cultural adjustment of life in American baseball. He and his journey represent the personification of MLB’s experiment.
The story begins with a shot, slowed down, of Itchy in China hitting a mammoth home run. It almost looks like a vision – and, in fact, it represents the shared dream of MLB and Itchy that he or another player in the China pipeline will become the Yao Ming of baseball. From there, the film cuts between the China hunt (the film’s backbone) and Itchy (its beating heart). Because of his vulnerability, Itchy is an “everyman.” He is akin to the lead character in “Don’t Stop Believin,’” the 2013 documentary about Journey’s lead singer directed by our producer, Ramona Diaz, who is advising us in making this film.
The Itchy portions are chronologically structured. The interwoven China segments are each like tiny films illuminating the hunt in some way -– several may spotlight particularly compelling young prospects (one boy is from Tibet) and their backstories.
Exterior shots of the two nations would reinforce their differences and underscore how far Itchy is from his home. The Orioles and MLB have given their cooperation to the project. We have interviewed Orioles’ executive Dan Duquette and may include well-known former MLB players in the film to add perspective and a sense of familiarity.
The film went into production in March 2016 when our crew began shooting footage of Itchy upon his arrival in Sarasota, Fla. We have obtained many video files and photos shot by Itchy and Huang. We followed Itchy on his first baseball assignment in Florida’s Gulf Coast League. Contingent on funding, the crew would head to China and film there and continue following Itchy’s journey into the 2017 season and beyond.