Sending America's Favorite Pastime To Asia

barry petersen baseball china asia
CBS
Baseball: It's the sound, the hot dogs, the peanuts, the souvenirs ... of the complete all-American pastime.

Except, this is China, where Major League Baseball wants into the world's largest market even though almost no one here has even seen a baseball game, CBS News correspondent Barry Petersen reports.

"It's very exciting," one Chinese fan says.

Baseball was once popular here.

Even Mao had baseball teams in his army, as training for throwing grenades. But then he banned capitalist things like baseball.

Today, with only a handful of obscure Chinese teams, the biggest hurdle is teaching a whole nation the love of the game.

"There is a certain rhythm, there is a certain poetry and it takes time, there is no question it takes time to really understand and get into it," said Los Angeles Dodgers coach Joe Torre.

It was the Jesuits who said, if you get them when they are young, you will have them for life. Obviously that's part of the marketing strategy of Major League Baseball in China.

They organized baseball programs for thousands of school kids. But it's tough.

I knew what a home run way, says 8-year-old Xinwei, but I forgot.

The kids there can't name one American player … but ask about basketball?

China's Yao Ming of the Houston Rockets is a hometown hero, and a symbol of what 20 years of marketing has done for America's NBA in Asia.

With games on TV and the government building 800,000 multi-purpose courts in rural China.

"During the day, actually, you can dry your crops there," said Tim Chen, the CEO of NBA China. "At night people get together there, social activity, watch movies. Then later you can play basketball there."

But don't underestimate how fast they can learn about American teams.

Or how making it to the big leagues can become a little boy's dream ... no matter where he was born.