Tigers, Lions host US college all-stars
Fresh from their improbable comeback to win the China Baseball League championship, the Beijing Tigers will host Team USA for three games at Fengtai Stadium this weekend.
Team USA is an all-star squad of junior college players and includes nine All-Americans. Field boss Marty Smith is head coach of the Central Florida Community College Patriots and has twice led his charges to the JUCO World Series.
The China-USA Friendship Series opens tonight when the Tianjin Lions, who lost the best-of-five CBL Finals to Beijing after winning the first two games, host the Americans under the lights at Tian Ti Dodger Stadium. They'll meet again tomorrow night before Team USA travels to Beijing for games on Saturday (4 pm), Sunday (4 pm) and Monday (10 am).
The Friendship Series was founded in 2002 when a Chinese all-star team travelled to Tennessee and won two of five games.
"Those Chinese kids really caught us by surprise," recalled Harry Tholen, head of the 2004 US delegation and president of the National Junior College Athletic Association.
"Obviously having their own professional league has really helped their development, so we're expecting an even tougher challenge this time."
Team USA's roster is loaded with size and power, with only five players under 6 feet tall. Southpaw pitcher Brent Gaphardt from Maryland is 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds, while righthander Stoney Stone from Texas is 6-foot-6 and tips the scales at 195. Third baseman Neil Giesler from Florida is 6-foot-4 and 205.
Yang Jie, vice-secretary general of the China Baseball Association, said he's looking forward to seeing how the CBL's two best teams fare against the Americans.
"We had a tremendous experience in 2002 both from a baseball and cultural perspective. It is now our turn to extend our warmest Chinese hospitality to our friends from the USA," said Yang.
"On the field, we feel that the CBL has better prepared our players for the stiff competition that Team USA will offer. This international competition is critical to our long-term plan as we prepare China baseball for the 2008 Beijing Olympics."
For complete rosters and other information on the Friendship Series, visit the CBL website at www.cbl.org.cn.