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Thursday, August 23, 2001
M's accused of acting unethically

Associated Press

BEIJING -- China's baseball association accused the Seattle Mariners on Thursday of acting unethically in signing a 16-year-old Chinese pitcher and said the team was duped by a sports agent.

Firing back in the battle over Wang Chao, the association said the right-hander signed a 12-year contract last year with a Beijing team.

In Seattle, however, the Mariners reiterated Thursday that they handled the signing according to Major League Baseball rules, and that there was never a sports agent involved in negotiations.

"No agent at all, none whatsoever," said Ted Heid, director of Pacific Rim scouting for the Mariners. Heid said he spoke with Wang's parents Wednesday, who assured him "everything was in order."

The young pitcher worked out with Seattle pitching coach Bryan Price before Wednesday's 16-1 Mariners win over the Detroit Tigers at Safeco Field. Wang and Heid were to fly Thursday night to Arizona, where Wang will join other players at the Mariners' Peoria training camp.

Heid said the team never dealt with the Chinese baseball association during contract talks.

If there were serious problems, Heid says the Mariners probably would have heard before now from the association, which is under the government's Sports Ministry.

The association said it plans to complain in writing. Association official Yang Jie said the Mariners never contacted them about Wang. He also expressed concerns about Wang's future if he is hurt while playing in the United States.

"We think it's bad that the Seattle Mariners acted this way, that the player is unprotected and they acted unethically," Yang said. "We've not had a single fax, phone call or met anyone from Seattle."

Heid said Major League Baseball has rules on how old players must be when teams sign them.

"We followed those rules impeccably. We signed him to a 2002 contract per Major League Baseball guidelines," Heid said.

The 6-foot-4, 160-pound Wang, from Beijing, spent several weeks with the Mariners in Peoria during spring training this year.

Yang said an American sports agent -- whom he refused to name -- took Wang to the United States, but because he wanted to profit on the deal, withheld from the Mariners that the pitcher was already under contract.

Chinese regulations require Wang to have approval from his Beijing team and the association before joining the Mariners, Yang said.

He said the association would not have blocked the transfer and that it wants Chinese players to play overseas so they can improve before the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

"We would have been very supportive," Yang said.