Pictures by Krittayad Janasawad
China’s future in softball and baseball is bright, thanks to businessman Fong Sio Long and his son Roy Fong Ka Chon from Zhong Shan City In Guang Dong province.
Zhong Shan City is regarded as the home for softball and baseball and it was here that the late Liang Fu Chu and his son Liang You Wen laid the foundation for the sports and were aptly regarded as the ‘Godfathers of Baseball’.
Now, 66-year-old Sio Long has taken over the task of developing and promoting baseball and softball and is the current ‘Godfather of Softball and Baseball’.
The honorary member of the Softball Federation of China and Baseball Federation of China, through his company – Panda Sport Industrial Development Co. Ltd – together with son Roy, have been actively involved in development and promotion of the game.
The Chinese team here for the inaugural Slow Pitch Softball Asia Cup 2023 which is also the World Cup qualifier, which ended in Pattaya, Thailand today, was sponsored by Fong’s company.
And with China defeating host Thailand 16-0 in the third placing match for the bronze medal in the competition this morning, they have also earned the third ticket to the World Cup in Mexico.
China finished third after the preliminary rounds with two wins (against Thailand and Singapore) and two losses (to Philippines and Chinese Taipei) to play in the third placing match.
In the preliminary round match China defeated Thailand 10-4.
Chinese Taipei and Philippines who play in the final later, have automatically earned their ticket to the World as the top two finishers. The two teams will now battle for the Asia Cup in the final.
“The late Fu Chu’s son had asked me to take over the role in 2016 and ever since I have doing my part,” said Sio Long who owned electronic factory in 90s before going into real estate business in 2000, before setting up the Panda Sport Industrial Development Co. Ltd in 2016.
Panda Sport Industrial Development Co. Ltd is an event and training company and has established itself of doing big and notable entertainment concerts and huge events.
“It is this company also that my father uses for the development of baseball and softball and spends about RMB 10 million (RM6.5 million) a year on the sports,” added Roy.
The company also sponsored the China team here to Pattaya to a tune of RMB 300,000 (RM196,000).
“Our bigger contribution is the Slow Pitch Softball League we have in four zones with 1,000 teams competing for the last four years with the top two teams from each zone, the defending champion and our own Panda team, competing in the Grand finals at Zhong Shan City,” said Sio Long.
“We are also actively involved in promoting the sports at schools and conduct regular clinics.”
Roy added their contribution to sport including the newly built Baseball Stadium and a softball playing pitch.
“We are also in the process of building another stadium and pitch, which will be ready by 2025, in time for the National Games which will we will managing.”
Sio Long when asked why his passion for the sports, he simply answered: “It is our Government’s national policy to encourage private sectors to promote sports and I felt as a citizen and had the means, I needed to do my part.”
Asked if he gets monetary assistance from the government or provincial government for his involvement in softball and baseball events, he said that they get subsidies depending on the size of the event and participation number.
“Zhong Shan City in the Quang Dong province is surrounded by eight cities and is only an hour’s drive from Macau and we get players from all these cities converging to our city to play baseball and softball,” added Roy.
Sio Long added that the national teams for baseball and softball use Zhong Shan City as their base for centralised training.
“The China Slow Pitch team here in Pattaya was selected from our League and our aim was to qualify for the World Cup and we did it,” said Sio Long.
“Our investment on the team to sponsor them has paid off and we look forward to the World Cup,” said Roy.
With China, through Godfather Fong paying great attention to development of baseball and softball, it will only be matter of time before they close the gap and even challenge the powerhouses in Asia like Japan, Chinese Taipei and Korea a run for their money.
Kudos to Fong for his vision and foresight in developing and promoting the game.