The Pittsburgh Pirates have signed pitcher Haicheng Gong from China to a contract.
Haicheng Gong was born on December 28, 1998 in China. The right-handed pitcher is just 18 years old and presents another international signing for the Pirates, just like they have done with Jung Ho Kang, Dovydas Neverauskas, and Rinku Singh. The young pitcher was signed by international scout Roger Chiang.
Gong was a member of the Chinese World Baseball Classic team, and he pitched 1/3 of an inning against team Japan. The website Chinese Bang Qiu, his fastball was 84-87 miles per hour. Gong comes from the MLB Development Center in China, and Pirates Prospects points out that Gong is the second player to sign from the development center.
Over the 2016 summer, Gong spent time in the Blue Claws Academy to help get used to the American Culture. On the Blue Claws website, they mention their program and how Gong spent time with them:
"“Last summer, he spent time with the BlueClaws Baseball Academy youth teams as part of a program through which Chinese players could come to the US and get accustomed to American baseball and American culture.”"
The Blue Claws also mention that Haicheng Gong “is the first pitcher to sign a pro contract from the MLB Development Center in China.” This is large news on the international front. The Pirates have already signed a player from the Korean Baseball Organization in Kang, the first Lithuanian player made his Major League debut this season in Neverauskas, the team signed a pair of arms from India in 2008 in Singh and Dinesh Patel, and the team has Gift Ngoepe on the 25 man roster, the only player from the continent of Africa.
The signing of Haicheng Gong indicates the Pirates are still searching across the globe for talent to keep a competitive edge. Gong is only 18 years old and has time to grow and develop in the Pirates system.