MILLIGAN COLLEGE, Tenn. — This weekend, a group of young men from Taiwan are scheduled to touch down in Atlanta en route to Milligan College, where they will spend two weeks immersed in a camp learning the nuances of baseball.
But that will only be the beginning of their education.
The camp is designed to expose the players to the concept of becoming student-athletes – which is a far cry from the system of athlete development currently in place back home in Taiwan – and will also provide them with the opportunity to get a glimpse of what life is like in America outside the major cities.
“The Taiwanese folks really want to promote the idea of the American college experience for the student-athlete,” said Mark Fox, Milligan’s Vice-President for Athletics and Student Development. “The system that they have in Taiwan for athletes is much different. It’s more like a club system where once you commit to a sport, you don’t really have the opportunity to do your academic studies. There are no student-athletes, and they have to make that decision pretty early on as young adults.”
That system often requires young people and their families to make a huge gamble during their teenage years. If promising athletes choose to pursue their sport, they do so with no safety net if that career choice doesn’t pan out, which often leads to consequences that can last a lifetime.
“What oftentimes happens is the large bulk of them never make it in their sport, so they’re left without their academic training and skills to function in the business world or the private sector,” Fox said. “So oftentimes, those people end up in a menial type of job, not because of their lack of academic ability, but because of their lack of academic exposure.”
That has been the chief concern of Jeff Hsu, a successful Taiwanese engineer before making the transition over to sports marketing. Fox and Hsu struck up a friendship through the Olympic Training Site at ETSU that has developed into a partnership Fox believes could ultimately be a win-win for both Milligan College and young athletes in Taiwan.
“The Taiwanese folks really want to promote the idea of the American college experience for the student-athlete,” Fox said. “At Milligan, we hope to end up with some students that would add to our campus culture and environment. More specifically, we hope to add some student-athletes and expand the game of baseball.”
Milligan coach Nathan Meade and his staff will handle the baseball side of things for the next two weeks. Camps will run from 9 a.m. until noon, and will feature a pair of sessions with Elizabethton Twins manager Ray Smith and hitting coach Jeff Reed.
Meade, Smith, Reed and Fox all traveled to Taiwan to put on a camp about a year and a half ago, but that camp focused mostly on pitching and catching. This time, Meade is planning a more holistic approach to instruction.
“This is going to be more of an all-inclusive camp,” Meade said. “They’re going to get everything from infield play, outfield play, pitching instruction and offense. They’re going to get a little bit of everything.”
Once the baseball portion of the day is concluded, the players – who range in age from 11 to 15 – will get a chance to explore our region.
Fox said he plans to take the campers on excursions to Watauga Lake, Sevierville and Quantum Leap, among other places.
“Jeff Hsu wants them to really get a feel for what America is like,” Fox said. “For most people in the Far East, when they think of America, they think of Los Angeles or San Francisco.”
While Fox doesn’t know what the future holds for the partnership beyond this camp, he is hopeful that the two weeks ahead will be beneficial for both sides.
“It’s one of those things that you really can’t set a goal for,” Fox said. “I think we’ve just got to make sure everything we do each year is of a quality nature. We’ve got to promote it on our end, they promote it on their end and let’s just kind of see where it takes us.”
Information from: Johnson City Press, http://www.johnsoncitypress.com