Organizers hope Quincy’s booming Asian-American community could become a “home away from home” for China’s softball team.
China’s Olympic softball team has one more year to train for the 2008 summer games in Beijing. To get ready, they have been practicing and playing in America to master the aggressive Western-style play needed to win at the international level.
Their next stop: Quincy.
While other cities have provided professional teams to play against, Quincy is giving the Chinese squad something else – kinship, hospitality and support in a community increasingly recognized for its booming Asian-American population.
Community groups are hosting a public dinner for the women at Cathay Pacific restaurant in North Quincy on Sunday before giving them a tour of the area.
Using the City of Presidents as the New England rest stop in what will likely be the team’s last American tour before next year’s Olympics is a perfect match, organizers said.
“We want them to know, at least in the Boston area, we have people who really care for them, really admire them and only want to wish the best of them,” said organizer Joseph Wong, a member of the Greater Boston Chinese Cultural Exchange Committee. “They can consider Quincy their home away from home.”
The women of Team China, who won the silver medal in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, represent sacrifice as much as they do their nation. Handpicked at an early age to play softball, they have given up a normal family and social life in a culture generally disapproving of women in sport.
With no league and few other teams in China, the players are touring America to gain experience and sharpen their skills. But the isolation and relentless practice follows them from place to place; the women usually stay in dorms.
Quincy could learn from the Chinese players, Wong said. “The fact that these young ladies are Asian and are all world-class athletes and all representing their country would be an inspiration and a good model for not just young Asian women, but women in general.”
While plans for a pick-up game in the city fell through, Wong’s committee and the Quincy-based American Chinese Federation is hosting the team after they play four games in Lowell against the New England Riptide of the National Pro Fastpitch women’s softball league nightly from tonight through Saturday.
Organizers hope the team, whose oldest member is 27, will help attract and unite the area’s Chinese-American youth, despite the fact that sports haven’t been a sensation in China since the ping-pong craze of the 1970s.
“Chinese people are really not into sports, said Ai Cheng, an organizer and volunteer at American Chinese Federation in Quincy.
Tickets to the dinner on Sunday at Cathay Pacific restaurant are $25 each. To reserve a table, call Joseph Wong at 617-448-1413, Al Wong at 617-513-4317 or Cheng at 978-223-8392. A reception, cocktails and photo opportunities begin at 5:30 p.m. followed by a buffet from 6:45 to 9 p.m.
Ryan Menard of The Patriot Ledger (Quincy, Mass.) may be reached at email@example.com.