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By Chad Thompson
Tomorrow night, professional baseball returns to London after a five year absence.
The Frontier Baseball League's London Werewolves are ready to prowl and both management and players are anticipating the big night.
Ryan Petit an outfielder from Brigden, Ontario and a first-year professional said he can't wait for the season to begin.
"I am excited to play," he said. "The people have been treating us well. It's my first year of pro ball and it is nice to have someone do your laundry for you and to have your own locker."
Fellow first-year pro and second baseman Gregg Neuman shared Petit's enthusiasm for the season. "We are ready for the season, we have a great group of guys and a solid team with good players," he said.
The Werewolves franchise moved to London from Kalamazoo, where they played last year. Pitcher Jeff Isom said the difference between the two stadiums is like night and day.
"Last year, at times, you would come out and the field would not even be ready," he reflects. "Here the field is always prepared and is probably the best field in the league."
"The facility and the grounds crew are great," said Andy McCauley, manager for the Werewolves. "The grounds crew makes it easy to come to work. We just have to go out and play baseball, they take care of the rest."
Both Neuman, from Chicago and Isom, from West Lafeyette, Indiana, said they are enjoying their time in Canada and the Forest City. "London is a great city," Neuman said. "The people are great and it has a nice atmosphere."
McCauley shared the sentiments of his players. "With the university in town there is stuff oriented to the age of the players. You are less worried about your players here then you would be in other cities."
He added although it's early, he has confidence his team will do well this season. "It's tough to say what the other teams have," he said. "We have a group of hard workers and players with good talent. The novelty will attract the fans at first but what they will see is a group of players who are accessible and hard-working kids excited to play pro ball."
The last baseball team in London were the London Tigers, a double A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers, which left after their five-year contract was up with the city in 1994. General manager John Kuhn is not concerned with the legacy left by the previous team.
"We are not worried about it," Kuhn said. "They did not do it right, there's no other way to say it. You have to treat fans with respect. We expect nothing, we are going to put a quality product on the field and give people extra, hoping they will come out."
Ric Telfer, director of operations, shared a similar view.
"We are an independent team," he said. "The Tigers were controlled by Detroit, they chose to move them after five years. We met with very little negative attitude when bringing the team here."
"We had the deal with the city done in half an hour," Kuhn added. "We have all our boards in the outfield as well as the space in our programs sold [to sponsors]."
Kuhn said he is pleased with the response he has received from the public. "We saw it as a tough sell and that we would have to take our time," he said. "You have to give something extra. It's $6 for three hours of entertainment and we will have the field open after the games for the fans to meet the players. It's baseball. It's just fun, that's how you have to look at it."