As St. Louis Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong works to put his play in the 2013 World Series behind him, one thing he had not counted on was the exposure it provided for him in China.
"Kolten Wong is special, "said Sheng Yi, who besides coaching the Chinese National team also helped broadcast the World Series back to his homeland. Yi and his team met Wong prior to Saturday's game at Busch Stadium as part of a cultural-business exchange.
"More people were watching him, 'oh, here's this Chinese guy'," said Yi of the postseason exposure and continued interest. "His hands, really fast, he steals bases really good, so more popular."
"I was not aware, but that's pretty cool," said Wong. "That's awesome."
Wong is one of a handful of players currently in the Major Leagues of Chinese descent.
"My great-grandparents on my dad's side were pure Chinese," shared Wong, who is proud of his last name but had yet to receive any fan mail from the country.
"I don't think people really put me in that category of being Chinese. I was born and raised in Hawaii and a lot of people don't even realize I'm Kolten Wong when they see me."
As for the style of play Yi is teaching in China, it's not unlike that of Wong.
"Never try to teach to swing the bat hard—just focus," said Yi, who also confessed to watching "Fever Pitch" thirty times. "See the ball, hit the ball, and don't think too much. Sometimes they think too much—don't think double, or base hit. The home run, it's a gift."
The last two months, the St. Louis Cardinals, Rawlings, and the World Trade Center worked in conjunction with Senator Kit Bond to bring the team to St. Louis.
"The Chinese National Team was a unique opportunity for us because of the synergies that our local government is trying to do from a business perspective," shared General Manager John Mozeliak. "Obviously, tying in the Cardinal brand, baseball, and what they're trying to do over there from a grass-roots version of getting baseball really up and going. When you have 1.3 billion people—it's probably worth the exercise."
"Rawlings approached us and we have many good friends in the Chinese embassy," said Senator Bond on his work in cultivating the visit. The largest export market for the St. Louis region is China—equaling $2.5 billion worth of goods in 2012 according to the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission.
"The diversity of businesses from St. Louis doing business there–Peabody, Boeing has sold a lot of airplanes, Emerson has 40,000 employees there," credited Bond.
Besides attending the Cardinals game, the Chinese also played an exhibition game Friday against Maryville and visited the Arch before having dinner at Hollywood Casino.
Brian Stull will be contributing to KSDK Sports throught the 2014 MLB season. Brian is the St. Louis Cardinals lead writer at St. Louis Baseball Weekly and is the host of the St. Louis Baseball Weekly radio show on CBS Sports Radio 920.