The Chinese National Team will become the first international team to participate in the Arizona Fall League, continuing Major League Baseball’s ongoing effort to help develop the squad as it trains for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. The 16th season of the AFL will begin on Tuesday, October 9th.
Team China will play one game against each of the six teams in the Arizona Fall League during the period of October 25th-31st. Team USA, a national team of non-40-man-roster players from MLB organizations, also will play one game against each of the six Arizona Fall League teams. The results and statistics of the Team China and Team USA games will count in the Arizona Fall League. Both Team China and Team USA will participate in international tournaments in Asia following their Arizona Fall League participation.
“With the Olympics less than a year away, Major League Baseball is very pleased that the Chinese National Team will test themselves and gain experience against top MLB prospects in the highly competitive environment of the Arizona Fall League,” said Jimmie Lee Solomon, MLB’s Executive Vice President for Baseball Operations. “The Olympics give us a unique opportunity to showcase baseball to the people of China, and we are happy to help the National Team reach its potential.”
“We thank Major League Baseball for its longtime support of the Chinese National Team,” said Shen Wei, Secretary General of the Chinese Baseball Association. “This is a great opportunity to improve our team by playing against such high-level competition as we prepare for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.”
The Chinese National Team, hosted by Major League Baseball, begins a 16-game schedule of Instructional League games against Minor League players on Tuesday, in preparation for the six contests in the AFL. This trip will mark Team China’s fourth stint in Instructional League. Former Major League manager Jim Lefebvre and pitching coach Bruce Hurst lead the Chinese team on the field. Team China is training at the complex of the San Diego Padres in Peoria, Arizona.
Team China’s participation in the AFL is another step in a comprehensive program aimed at training the squad for the 2008 Olympics. Last spring, Major League Baseball hosted the Chinese National Team for Spring Training in the United States and, in an unprecedented program, provided an opportunity for China’s National Team players to spend a portion of Minor League extended spring training in April on assignments to nine Major League organizations in either Arizona or Florida.
In addition to the continued leadership of Lefebvre and Hurst, additional coaching assistance this fall will come from the 11-time National League All-Star and the 1995 N.L. Most Valuable Player, Barry Larkin; former 14-year Major Leaguer, Duffy Dyer, who has been a Major League coach and Minor League manager for more than 20 seasons; and former eight-year Major Leaguer, Tom Lawless, who has managed and coached in the Minor Leagues for 15 years. Larkin, Dyer and Lawless will focus on fielding and base-running instruction.
Lefebvre had an eight-year playing career as an infielder for the Los Angeles Dodgers from 1965-1972 and managed the Seattle Mariners (1989-1991), the Chicago Cubs (1992-1993) and the Milwaukee Brewers (1999). Lefebvre was the National League Rookie of the Year in 1965 and played in two World Series. He has also served as a coach for the San Diego Padres, the Cincinnati Reds, the Brewers, the Oakland Athletics, the San Francisco Giants and the Dodgers and played and coached in Japan following his Dodgers’ playing career. Lefebvre is the first foreigner to be selected to lead China's National Baseball Team.
Hurst had a 15-year pitching career from 1980 through 1994, including nine seasons with the Boston Red Sox before joining the San Diego Padres, Colorado Rockies and Texas Rangers. During his career, he had 145 wins, 1,689 strikeouts and two wins in the classic 1986 World Series against the New York Mets. He is a member of the Red Sox Hall of Fame.
Maury Brown is the founder and president of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football and The Biz of Basketball (The Biz of Hockey will be launching shortly). He is also a contributor to Baseball Prospectus contributed to the 2007 Pro Football Prospectus and is an available freelance writer.
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