Islander Student-Athlete Goes Global, Coaches Chinese Youth on the Finer Points of Baseball

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – What would you do if you were offered the chance to spend a summer working with Major League Baseball (MLB) in another country? According to Tate Gillespie, an Islander student-athlete, the answer is a no-brainer. Gillespie had the experience of a lifetime when he spent ten weeks during the summer interning as a youth development coach with MLB China Academies in the city of Wuxi, located 40 minutes from Shanghai. 

“I grew close with a lot of the middle school and high school players who came to the academy. Baseball became our universal language,” shared Gillespie, a senior communications major at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. “I hope I’ve been able to impact these kids’ lives as much as they have impacted mine.”

During his internship, Gillespie shared his love of baseball with some of the top young baseball players of China. A typical day of coaching for Gillespie began with stretches and warm-ups on the field, followed by a few hours of individual work and one-on-one interactions with the participants. The participants would break up into teams to spend the rest of the afternoon practicing or playing full baseball games. Gillespie says he found the young baseball players’ tough mentality and dedication inspiring.

“None of the kids I worked with spoke fluent English,” he said. “We couldn’t even have a conversation without a translator but we all understood baseball. They knew that I was there to give them the best coaching possible, so they could one day go on to play professional baseball.”

As a pitcher for Islanders Baseball, Gillespie gained another unique experience during his time in China. In addition to coaching, Gillespie worked one-on-one with Bobby Cramer, a former MLB pitcher with the Oakland A’s who are based out of California, and Jeff Brooks, a former MLB player with the Arizona Diamondbacks and San Diego Padres. Gillespie says the opportunity to play catch with Cramer and Brooks earned him new friends and a new perspective on the game he has loved since the age of five.

“My love of baseball grew even more while I was in China,” said Gillespie. “I learned how to teach others and I learned how I could grow as a player. Now I’m looking at how I play from a different perspective – I’m thinking like a coach.”

Over the ten weeks, Gillespie traveled all over China. He visited places like the former capital of China Nanjing, Suzhou, Shanghai, and Hong Kong. He befriended locals, tried traditional foods, and learned enough Chinese to hail a cab or get a cold glass of water. But he has one memory that will last him a lifetime.

“I remember sitting in downtown Shanghai as the sun set over the river. It was one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen. It was incredible,” recalls Gillespie. “I’m proud to be an Islander, student-athlete and I’m thankful I was able to represent my University on a global scale.”