Ball team wants respect
By Gary Magee
All the Western men's baseball team wants is a little respect and maybe a few wins.
The squad took to the road this weekend for its first-ever action in the Canadian Inter-University Baseball Association and came away with a doubleheader split against Wilfrid Laurier. Western lost the first game 9-5 but bounced back in the second, winning 4-0.
Left-handed pitcher Spencer Lang, a London native, was on the mound for the first game but couldn't hold the fort against a barrage of Laurier hits. Western was able to pull up their socks in the second game of the twin bill thanks to a brilliant complete-game shutout from Chris Thompson.
This is the inaugural season for the Western team and although the roster is filled by 15 University of Western Ontario students the team does not have varsity status. Due to this lack of status the team receives no financial support from the university and cannot use the Mustangs name, logo, or the stylized 'W'. They do, however, have aspirations of someday being a part of the big purple machine.
"This year we want to put a good product on the field and not embarrass the university," coach Dave Butt said. "Hopefully within a year or two we will get recognition from the school even if that just means using the name and logo."
Butt feels the team should be in tough this season and views Brock as their stiffest competition.
"We have the talent to remain competitive," he said. "We hope to draw more players in the next few years once they see that we have a quality program."
Inexperience may be the team's biggest weakness but the players have a lot of faith in their coaching staff. Second baseman Wes Lander, who recorded the teams first official hit, felt this weekend's season opener illustrated Western's coaching strength.
"Our team is kind of raw and we are still getting to know each other, but I have already seen lots of improvement thanks in most part to our great coaching," he said. "We out-coached Laurier in both games even though we lost one of them."
The coaching staff sports an impressive list of credentials to back up the kudos received from the players. Mike Lumley, the team's manager, was a former major league pitcher in the Detroit Tigers' organization. Lumley spent the majority of his pro days in the minors, splitting time between the London Tigers and the Toledo Mudhens and made the 40-man Detroit roster once.
Lumley has been an active scout for the Tigers since a shoulder injury ended his playing career in 1993. He also runs a baseball school in the London area.
Butt, a Western Graduate, has been coaching baseball for 15 years and is a certified level three coach. Coach Jay Lapp is a current scout for Major League Baseball's central scouting.
With a quality coaching staff and the dedication of some die-hard baseball players, an official Western Mustangs baseball team does not seem too far away.
The team will travel to Hamilton tonight to face McMaster at 5 p.m.