Badgers have reservations at midget nationals
* Four medals in the previous four Augusts for the London Badgers at the Baseball Canada midget nationals ….
By Matt Dumouchelle
For a program, coach or player, a chance to compete for a national championship is one that is fulfilled sometimes only once in a career.
For the London Badgers Baseball Association, it’s becoming common place.
The Badgers made their fourth straight appearance to the 2012 Baseball Canada midget nationals this season, finishing with their second bronze in that span.
The other two medals – gold – came in 2009 and 2011.
It’s the sixth time in the history of the Badgers program they have won a medal and have now competed in the midget championships nine of the last 16 years.
Head Coach and Badger technical director, Mike Lumley claims this recent run by his under-18 teams have been the best he’s seen from the program.
“It’s the most consistent we’ve ever been.” Lumley boasts, “The older players get that experience from playing in the nationals and it’s almost like they teach the younger half what it’s like to play at that level.”
On championship morning this year, the Badgers lost to the eventual champions, Team Alberta, and finished their day with a 3-2, extra-inning win over host Quebec City to collect the hardware.
The Badgers are unique from most of the teams they face at the national championship level.
Other provinces bring “all-star” teams to the tournament, while the Badgers arrive, representing Ontario, with only six players on their roster from outside London city limits.
As a club team, with a chance to play regularly in the Premier Baseball League of Ontario, Lumley feels it gives his team an edge many others don’t have.
“They are able to develop chemistry together that I think is unmatched.” Lumley comments, “A lot of these guys have been playing together since they were nine or 10 years old, so they have learned to play together.
“You see it in drills, relays and during games, they know where each other will be and that gives them a huge amount of confidence.”
Another event the team was able to soak in this summer was the Baseball Canada Cup Championships, hosted at London’s Labatt Park.
The entire Badger program hosted the event and had players and coaches doing everything from keeping score to running the scoreboard, to selling 50/50 tickets.
The experience, Lumley says, put a fire in their belly.
“It was a chance to taste and see the atmosphere of a national championship,” he describes “They see the caliber of the teams and as they move up they will know what to strive for and see the competition and desire to make it to that level.”
But for one player, Badgers outfielder/pitcher, Andrew Warner, it was a chance to live that dream.
Warner was selected by Team Ontario to suit up for the Canada Cup and helped his team to a Gold Medal victory by posting one win and not allowing an earned run, while striking out seven in four innings.
For Warner, Lumley says the time with Team Ontario was invaluable.
“He is a tremendous player and for him to be chosen by Ontario as a member of a club team, that’s a big deal,” Lumley acknowledges, “You won’t remember most games you play, but you remember experiences and for Andrew, being able to do it at home, that was special.”
The Badgers recently had tryouts for their minor and major bantams and minor and major midget programs and Lumley says it was all smiles when they looked back at the new crop of players.
“The tryouts went great; there were a lot of outstanding players we are really excited about.” Lumley beams, “The midget program has a lot more depth than previous years and our other teams seem to be filling in well. It’s a matter of working on skill and mental development now.
“I think our top four teams are looking stronger now than they did in the past, which is saying something.”
Despite the recent success, Lumley says his Badgers aren’t satisfied with four national championship appearances in a row.
“Every year there is a possibly of getting there,” Lumley said. “It’s up to them how they go about their business. If they are here to be serious and make that a team goal, there is no reason why they can’t make it for a fifth straight time.”