IN CAPE COD SUMMER LEAGUE, THE BASEBALL IS PURE AND THE MAJOR LEAGUE DREAMS OF COLLEGE PLAYERS OFTEN COME TRUE — “60 MINUTES SPORTS” ONLY ON SHOWTIME®
Cape is Rivaling Dominican Republic, Japan and Cuba as a Source of Big League Talent
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NEW YORK (May 5, 2015) – You can’t get much closer to pure baseball than the Cape Cod Summer Baseball League. There is no admission, seats are usually on the grass and future major leaguers play their hearts out for room and board. It’s strictly amateur, but as Sharyn Alfonsi finds out, this home-spun league, which attracts the best college baseball players in America and the professional scouts, is one of the biggest sources of Major League Baseball talent in the world. Alfonsi’s report from Cape Cod will be featured on the next edition of 60 MINUTES SPORTS, Wednesday, May 6 at 10 p.m. ET/PT, only on SHOWTIME.
“This league is the best amateur league in the world, bar none,” says Mike Roberts, who coaches the team in the town of Cotuit. He retired after 20 years as the baseball coach at the University of North Carolina, where his connections help him bring talent to Cape baseball. “Each team kind of has their pockets that they recruit [from] different schools, different coaches they’re friends with,” he tells Alfonsi.
Such recruiting is why more than 1,100 players who made the majors have spent at least a season playing on Cape Cod. Current big leaguers who played summer ball on Cape Cod include Yankee slugger Mark Teixiera and Tampa Bay third baseman Evan Longoria. Hall of Famers Carlton Fisk and Frank Thomas also played on the Cape.
All that talent makes the league a boon for major league scouts. Nick Hostetler scouts for the Chicago White Sox and says the Cape is the place to find the best college players all in one place. But he has competition. How many scouts come out to a game? “There could be anywhere from 20 to 50 guys at one game,” says Hostetler.
Paul Galop, commissioner of the Cape Cod Baseball League, sums it up: “The scouts all come because they know the best players are here and the best players want to come here because they know the scouts are here,” he says. Add to that the folksy atmosphere and you have a classic cultural tableau. “Norman Rockwell somewhere is smiling down because what he had in mind happens here five times a night on Cape Cod…people on blankets, families that are together.”
The ball players stay with families in town who provide room and board as a matter of civic pride, love of the game and a chance to live with future sports stars. Ashby Crafts has been hosting players on her small farm for 14 years. As she shows pictures of her former charges, she points to the ones who made the pros. She says she gets attached to them. “You say goodbye to your friend, but you hope you see them on national TV very shortly,” she tells Alfonsi.
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CHINA’S STATE SPORTS SYSTEM, “THE GOLD MEDAL FACTORY,” STRUGGLES TO CHANGE WITH THE TIMES –
“60 MINUTES SPORTS” ONLY ON SHOWTIME®
Yao Ming Tells Lesley Stahl Why His Mother Didn’t Want Him to Play in the System
NEW YORK (May 4, 2015) – Former NBA star Yao Ming says his mother didn’t want him to play basketball in China’s government-run sports system, Lesley Stahl reports in a story that looks at the problems China’s sports system is facing and how it is trying to change with the times. Stahl’s report airs on the next edition of 60 MINUTES SPORTS, Wednesday, May 6 at 10 p.m. ET/PT only on SHOWTIME.
Yao, who is over 7 feet tall, takes Stahl inside the Shanghai Sports Institute, where some of China’s elite athletes train and where Yao honed the basketball skills he would later use playing for the Houston Rockets. But when he was young, Yao says, his mother didn’t want him to enter the sports system at all; she wanted him to go to a regular school, get a good education, and perhaps get a scholarship to college. Instead, he spent his teenage years living at the Sports Institute and training day-in and day-out. “First of all, how many sons really listen to their mom?” Yao says with a laugh. He tells Stahl he received only about 10 hours of education a week when he was training at the Institute, and that’s why he’s back in school now, at age 34, trying to get his college degree.
“How are you doing [in college]?” Stahl asks. “Don’t ask,” Yao replies.
China’s sports system was based on the Soviet model. It grooms athletes from an early age, and succeeded in winning 51 gold medals at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, the most for a nation. But the system has been less successful at promoting fitness for the masses and preparing athletes for life in China’s new and more market-oriented workplace.
Stahl interviews Zhang Shangwu – a star gymnast who tore his Achilles tendon and today performs in the streets of Beijing for spare change. “There’s a big gap between you and the outside world,” he told Stahl. “And you have no skills to make a living,” says Zhang.
Stahl also talks with Sang Lan, a gymnast who was paralyzed in an accident during the 1998 Goodwill Games in New York. At the time, the Chinese team did not have accident insurance for its athletes. “I had to depend on myself,” Sang Lan says, recalling how she had to rebuild her life after returning to China in a wheelchair.
China’s General Administration of Sport told 60 MINUTES SPORTS that there is now an accident insurance program for athletes, who are now required to attend at least 12 hours of classes a week. Susan Brownell, an American professor who has studied the Chinese sports system, says there have been problems implementing those changes, but the Chinese really do want reform.
“There tends to be…a stereotype of this fixed, unchanging Red Machine that was borrowed from the Soviets and never changed,” Brownell says. “And in fact….it’s evolved, it’s changed over time. And so it’s not a fair stereotype to think of it that way. “
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