VERO BEACH — The Beijing Shougang Eagles, the Chinese national women’s fast-pitch softball team, opened their fall training camp at Historic Dodgertown in Vero Beach, and will train here through Nov. 22 in preparation for their upcoming season, and with the long term goal to compete in the 2020 Olympic Games.
The Eagles just completed their inaugural season of playing in the summer U.S. National Pro Fastpitch League. The NPF is the only professional women’s softball league in the United States, and features six teams.
Head Coach Teresa Wilson brings a wealth of Division I head coaching experience to the Eagles, from the Universities of Arizona, Oregon, Minnesota, Washington and Texas Tech. While at Washington and Oregon, she took her teams to the NCAA Women’s College World Series seven times.
“Being able to come to Historic Dodgertown has been a dream for the Chinese, as well as to have a place to truly train after identifying what we need to work on through the NPF season,” said Wilson. “We finally have the time to train without having to play games. Historic Dodgertown is a beautiful facility with wonderful people. You can feel the history here and we are soaking up some of that history.”
Softball was an Olympic sport from 1996 to 2008, and was added back to competition for the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo. China took silver at the 1996 Summer Olympics, and the National Team training at Historic Dodgertown is the core team to represent their country in 2020.
“Adding the Beijing Shougang Eagles as a franchise in 2017 was an exciting step for professional softball,” said NPF commissioner Cheri Kempf. “We believe in the global growth of our incredible sport and that means training. This is an exciting blend of American baseball history and an international softball team working hard to develop their program on a large scale. This relationship goes a long way to illustrate the easy cross promotion of stick and ball sports globally.”
Historic Dodgertown, which opened in 1948, has long been recognized as an international sports facility, conference and event center, and welcomes teams in the sports of baseball, softball, football, soccer, rugby, lacrosse and land training for water sports.
As an investment to grow the game of softball, in 2012 Historic Dodgertown opened the on-property Quad Complex for softball. This year, and for the third consecutive year, this facility has been the host venue for the Florida Junior College Women’s Softball Championship (JUCO), and this year also marked the fourth consecutive year the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) Softball Championship held its games here. In addition, Historic Dodgertown is the southern home for Softball Factory.
Since opening nearly 70 years ago, teams and executives from China, Korea, Japan, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, Canada, South Africa, France and throughout Latin America have visited and played on Historic Dodgertown’s major league designed fields, trained on the state-of-the-art equipment, stayed in the on-site hotel villa rooms and utilized the meeting rooms, dining hall and recreational amenities.
Historic Dodgertown Chairman and former Dodgers owner Peter O’Malley has long encouraged the growth of sports in China.
O’Malley’s first visit to Beijing, China, was groundbreaking. In February 1980 he met with All-China Sports Federation representatives. In the summer of 1980, five representatives of the People’s Republic of China were his invited guests to observe baseball at Dodger Stadium and in Southern California. On Sept. 12, 1986, dedication ceremonies were held at the “Dodger Baseball Field,” privately built by O’Malley at the Tianjin Institute of Physical and Cultural Education (about 120 kilometers south of Beijing). In 1991 O’Malley was named an “Honorary Citizen” of the People’s Government of Tianjin.