Coaching the Chinese softball team in a country so vast that has a population of 1.3 billion, is a daunting task, but for Michael Bastian it is the culmination of a lifetime of involvement in the sport.
The American from Sacramento, California, has for the past four years been based in Beijing and coached softball to the Chinese national team. At the last Olympics in Beijing, softball and baseball were included as experimental sports but they won’t be given full status, but at least Bsastian, 47, had plenty of fun preparing for the 2008 Games.
He passed through George Town on a cruise ship last week and took the chance to link up with old softball friend Marlon Thomas who is the main organiser of softball in Cayman.
Bastian has worked as a head coach in the now-defunct Women’s Professional Softball League and at Division III Centenary College in Shreveport, Los Angeles.
In recent years, he’s conducted clinics for the International Softball Federation in locales as varied as Guatemala, the Netherlands and Cameroon and it was on one of those trips that he landed in China and eventually got the full-time post there.
As China’s coach, he’s had to learn to speak it in new ways. Among his coaching tools is a fake light bulb. He sets it atop his head when he wants to know whether his players understand a concept he’s trying to teach. “I’ve become a master at charades,” he said.
He has a translator, but on-field communication with his players is primarily through body language. He limited his attempts at verbal instructions when baserunners got mixed up between “Go, go, go!” and “No, no, no!”