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January 21, 2009 > Milpitas table tennis league continues to grow

Milpitas table tennis league continues to grow

By Anthony Lynch

Though unknown to most, Milpitas is home to the United States' largest table tennis league, the Bay Area Table Tennis Federation.

Bruce Liu is the Chairperson of the BATTF, and one of the league's co-founders. Liu began playing the game at the age of 10, as a child in Taiwan. After a 17-year sabbatical, he returned to the sport he loved in 1999, and began to coach and play recreationally again. However, it bothered him that the sport wasn't treated seriously in America; in 2004, he developed the BATTF.

The league is currently in its third season, which opened in October and runs until March, and features 33 co-ed teams representing 11 different table tennis clubs in the Bay Area.

The league itself is based in Milpitas, but the various clubs range from cities such as Pleasanton, San Francisco and San Jose. Within the league, there are six different divisions that separate the various skills levels. Division 1 is the premier grouping and consists of six teams, which is currently led by Milpitas' ICC Club at 3-0.

The BATTF features some of the top talent in the country, including former Indian National Team member, Jitendra Gitla of the ICC club, and former United States National Team member, Barney Reed, who competes for the Alameda Table Tennis Club.

The league's biggest star, though, is a homegrown talent in San Jose's 13-year-old table tennis prodigy, Ariel Hsing. In 2008, Hsing finished second in the US Women's Nationals Singles Division, and is a current member of the 2009 National Team.

A few years back, both Bill Gates and Warren Buffet traveled to the Bay Area to play against her, and Buffet was so impressed that he invited Hsing to play an exhibition at the 2007 annual shareholder's meeting for Berkshire Hathaway. Hsing competes for the Palo Alto Top Team Club, and is one of the brightest hopes for American table tennis.

Liu mentioned that the league's goal is to bring a greater awareness to the sport in the United States. He said that worldwide, table tennis was the second most-watched event in the 2008 Olympics. The sport is already very popular throughout Asia and Europe, where professionals can make hundreds of thousands of dollars in prize money and endorsements. However, here in the States, the sport is nowhere close to that level of popularity. And the prize money for various American tournaments is considered by Liu to be "insignificant" at this point.

Tentatively, the fourth season of the league is scheduled to begin after the US Open in July. The new season will bring an expansion of the league into another hotbed of American table tennis talent in Southern California. Liu would like to see a healthy rivalry between the two areas, as the league continues to grow in future seasons.

Liu also stressed that, "Everyone is welcome to participate in our league, no matter what your age or skill level. We will find a place for you." He enthusiastically noted that players of every age and gender can enjoy the sport and relayed how, in recent years, a 94-year-old man even competed in the US Open.

Additionally, he mentioned that spectators are free to attend league events. The BATTF Web site (http://blog.battf.com) contains a complete schedule of all BATTF matches, as well as standings, rosters, results and videos.

The ICC also runs a nine-week Singles League in Milpitas for players with a rating over 1,700, which consists of round-robin play. To learn more, go to http://blog.milpitas-tabletennis.com.


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