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  Thu, August 19, 2004


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OTTAWA LYNX




Badgers keep producing quality
By MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

The players may change, but the results are often the same.

For the fifth time in eight years, the London Badgers midget baseball team is heading to the Canadian championship next week in Edmonton.

But before that, five from that team and a minor midget Badger will play for Ontario at the Canada Cup in Thunder Bay this weekend.

When all this is done, six Badgers will be heading to various U.S. colleges on baseball scholarships.

It seems Mike Lumley, the man who put the program together, has himself another successful year. Lumley is also used to having at least one or two marquee players who wind up getting drafted by professional organizations.

While that might not be this year, he still has a team capable of championships.

The midgets captured the Ontario elimination tournament early in August, winning all six games. They've gone 12-0 in that tournament the last two years. Last year, the Badgers finished fifth in the Canadian championship. Last year, the Badgers were a young team. They have nine players back this year.

"You can't compare this team to everyone else," said Lumley, who will also manage the Ontario team at the Canada Cup. "We have strong pitching all the way around. That's our forte and it always has been. We also have great offence, not just with the bat, but with our running speed. We have almost 200 stolen bags already.

"We are very consistent all the way through, all the way up and down the lineup. I don't think one guy dominates all the time. These players are very gritty. They play hard. When we won it last year, all these guys were the younger players."

Midget players Phil Carey, Craig Bate, Jerrod Wolf, Jordan Tiegs and Jeff Newnes made the Canada Cup team along with minor midget Dan Lovey. Large numbers of Badger players consistently make the Ontario team. Whatever system Lumley is using, it works.

Lumley's focus has always been on developing players. If winning happens to be a by-product, so much the better.

"We're consistent throughout the program," Lumley said. "We're teaching the guys to play. Look at the lower ages. We don't win big tournaments. We won't win the eliminations. We are more concerned with teaching the game. We all want to win. We know that. But our main concern is if you are going to play the game, play it right.

"We have a great base when they come up to me, so we can put the finishing touches on them and mould them together."

If there is an improvement over last year's midget team and this year's, it's their maturity level.

"They are a little bit more mature," Lumley said. "Last year, the young guys pushed the older guys. The older guys were very good, (the young guys) just seemed to be the fire that pushed the older guys. This year, they've brought along the younger guys and put the fire in them."

The Canada Cup is paid for by Baseball Ontario. The nationals are partially paid for by the host and Baseball Ontario; the Badgers have to come up with about $500 each.

"Anywhere you can get a little more money to defer costs helps," Lumley said. "These guys try to get a lot of sponsors throughout the year. Our main thing is our baseball program. To try and go back to them and tap them out again, it's tough. I almost don't feel comfortable doing that."

No matter what the cost, the Badgers continue to develop players U.S. colleges like.

Heading south after the Canadian championship are Adam Arnold to St. Clair College in Michigan; Dave Carey and Brad McElroy, Kellogg College, Michigan; Quinn Fuller, Genessee College, New York; Craig Gillet, Monroe College, New York; and Brock Kjeldgaard, Indian Hills College, Iowa.

All in all, just another year's work for the Badgers.