Former Lee Baseball Star Zhang Carter Calls World Baseball Classic "Best Experience of His Life"

  • Wednesday, March 22, 2023
  • George Starr
photo by MLB.com
Former Lee University pitcher Alan Zhang Carter has battled more than his share of adversity since his outstanding career at Duluth High School (Georgia) and his up and down college career with the Flames. However, the first three months of 2023 might help erase some of the frustrating events in the hard-throwing right-handers young life.

The series of positive events began in January when Zhang Carter had impressed professional scouts enough to earn a contract with the Los Angles Angels organization.
A few weeks later he received a call from Team China inviting him to be a member of the club that would play in the World Baseball Classic (WBC) in Japan.

Zhang Carter received the invitation because his mother Maggie Zhang was born in Xi', China and was a lawyer there before moving to the United States with her husband Nick. "This was my very first time going to Japan," he said as he talked about his adventure. "I've been to China three or four times, but I've always wanted to go to Japan for a vacation. Not only did we go to Tokyo, but we also went to two cities called Kagoshima and Miyazaki to play local company (independent professional) teams to prepare for the WBC."

China has never been known for producing professional baseball players but one of the Chinese player coaches has spent several years in the game. "Ray Chang played 12 seasons in the minor leagues for multiple teams, and participated in all four WBCs for Team China," noted Zhang Carter. "He is seen as one of the leaders of Chinese baseball and is also in charge of the Major League Baseball (MLB) Development Center programs in China. We also had two other pitchers that spent time with MLB affiliated organizations. The rest of the players on the roster participate in the Chinese Baseball Association, which is the professional baseball league in China."

Zhang Carter said his time in the WBC "was hands down the best baseball experience of my life with the competition I was able to face, the venue we played at, the cities we were able to explore and the great people of China that I was able to meet and network with."

He added, "Growing up I was a big baseball card and autograph collector and I actually met Ray Chang in 8th grade at a Gwinnett Braves game and I got him to sign my ticket from the game that day. I knew he was a legend for China in the WBC, so I made sure to get his autograph that day. Little did I know that 10+ years later we would be teammates on Team China."

Zhang Carter was called on to pitch twice during the WBC "During the tournament I got to pitch in our second game against the Czech Republic where I threw three shutout innings out of the bullpen with four K's. Three days after that, I got to start against Team Korea where I went 1.1 innings with one K," he recalled.

There were other key events in the experience he described, "Watching Shohei Ohtani in person at the Tokyo Dome with 45,000 in attendance was an experience I will never forget. There was an entire section for him in right field where they were waving enormous flags and chanting in unison whenever Japan was hitting. (When he was) on the mound he sat on 98-100 (mph) for five innings, and (at bat he) had two rocket hits off our pitchers.

"He played the game with such ease and was such an outgoing and friendly person to whoever he came across. Our shortstop got a single off a 99-mph fastball from Ohtani. The next inning when Ohtani reached second base on a double, he called over our shortstop and told him that he put a really good swing on his pitch and was essentially congratulating him. He's not only the greatest baseball player to ever live, but he's also a class act."

Note: Japan's Shohei Ohtani was named the MVP of the World Baseball Classic. With millions viewing, Ohtani struck out America's Mike Trout in the bottom of the ninth to give Japan a 3-2 win and the WBC Championship, touching off a huge celebration.

Pumped full of new life with an entirely unexpected new experience, Zhang Carter is hard at work in the Angel spring training camp. "I trained all offseason in Charlotte, North Carolina at a facility called Tread Athletics with a couple of former Lee teammates in Kade Kozak and Miguel Alba," he explained. "At Tread I worked hard to refine my delivery, continued to add strength and improve my overall game."

Now the waiting game is on. "I have not been told where I will be assigned once spring training is over," he confessed. "I am just focused on what I can control every day and then go with whatever they think is the best option for me at this time. My arm has been feeling as good as new and it is ready to take on its first full season of professional baseball! Goal wise I would like to stay healthy throughout the entire season, continue to refine my daily routine and process on the mound, and get sent up one level by the time the season has finished."

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