05/19/2018 11:24 AM
GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas – The Texas AirHogs are proud to announce an exciting and historic partnership with the Chinese Baseball Association (CBA) and Shougang Sports for the 2018 season. Thirty members of the Chinese National Baseball Team (known as the Beijing Shougang Eagles) will train at AirHogs Stadium and rotate as players on the Texas AirHogs roster. The CBA sees this partnership as an innovative way to expedite the development of its baseball players as they prepare for the 2020 Olympics and beyond. This will be the first time in history that a National Team has played a season as part of a professional baseball league in the United States.
“This is a partnership we really value a lot with the CBA and Shougang Sports,” said new AirHogs skipper John McLaren. “We are very thankful for getting the opportunity to do this.”
McLaren replaced Terry Collins as the manager of Team China at the 2013 World Baseball Classic, guiding the team to an upset over Chinese Taipei in the tournament’s opening round. He once again managed Team China at the 2017 World Baseball Classic and continues to serve in his managerial capacity for Team China.
“Shougang Sports has been sponsoring us, and playing in the American Association this summer will be a major step for us in moving forward. Hopefully, greater things come from this,” said McLaren, who began his involvement with Team China in 2011. The longtime coach is optimistic that this summer’s experience will accelerate the development of Team China.
Shougang Sports, a subsidiary of Shougang Corporation - a major business conglomerate in China - partners with the Chinese Baseball Association to help develop all aspects of Chinese baseball. Shougang Sports also owns and operates multiple sports teams and they play a major role in Chinese Olympic efforts.
In addition to the rotating Chinese players, the AirHogs will have approximately ten roster spots for free agent players. This year’s roster will feature former MLB pitchers Pedro Hernandez and Tyler Matzek, as well as returning position players Casio Grider and Ryan Wagner. The combined roster will be regularly referred to as the “Texas AirHogs – powered by Beijing Shougang Eagles”.
McLaren’s staff will feature a variety of veteran American and Chinese coaches who will bring a wealth of experience.
Longtime Astros minor league manager Jim Johnson, who also managed the Saint Paul Saints in 2002, will serve as the team’s hitting coach. Former Padres pitcher and Texas Rangers coach Larry Hardy will serve as the team’s pitching coach. The staff will include Rice University star and St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Kevin Joseph, as well as former Milwaukee Brewers third baseman and coach, Garth Iorg.
The team is proud to welcome to the coaching staff Song Pingshan, a manager of the Beijing Tigers in the Chinese Baseball League as well a manager and coach for Team China at international tournaments like the Asia Games and the Baseball World Cup since 1992. Yi Sheng, who has also coached and managed for Beijing and Team China, and Chen Kun, a member of the Sichuan Dragons who has represented Team China in international tournaments dating back to the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, will join McLaren’s staff as assistants. Other coaches will include Chen Biao, Ren Qiuge, and player-coach Na Chuang.
The AirHogs – powered by Beijing Shougang Eagles, open the 2018 season May 18 vs. Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks. First pitch at AirHogs Stadium is slated for 7:05 p.m. Individual tickets for the 2018 season are on sale now. Visit AirHogsBaseball.com for more information. For the latest news, follow the team on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @TXAirHogs. Media inquiries: Scott@neltexsports.com 972.679.5536 cell.