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Wednesday, January 18, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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People in Sports: Cleveland's Graves returns to Vietnam

HANOI, Vietnam — Danny Graves traveled a long way to find his roots.

Just a baby when he left Vietnam in 1974, the Cleveland Indians reliever returned for the first time Tuesday to glean a sense of the country and teach baseball to kids.

"I'm definitely excited to be here," Graves said after arriving in Hanoi. "I don't really know much about the country."

Graves, the only Vietnamese-born player in the major leagues, left Saigon when he was only 14 months old. His mother, Thao, worked at the U.S. Embassy during the Vietnam War. That's when she met Graves' father, Jim, an American serviceman who died six years ago. The pitcher, accompanied by his mother and wife, Andrea, is visiting as part of a goodwill tour.

Few Vietnamese regularly follow American sports in a country where soccer is king. Graves is hoping his visit will help create curiosity about America's national pastime.

"Kids at schools in Vietnam here see another Vietnamese player has been able to play baseball his whole career," said Graves, a two-time NL All-Star with the Cincinnati Reds. "Maybe that would spark a little more interest."

The Associated Press

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