London teen leads by example in leadoff spot on Badgers Squad vying for national title

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Facing grown men and college-aged pitching at age 16?

That was a test.

Getting a head start in the midget ranks last season?

Not a bad stepping stone, either.

So who better than Will Pollard to insert into the leadoff spot for Mike Lumley’s Badgers squad, which will be vying for a Baseball Canada 18U national championship next month at home in London?

“Mike put me up there at the top of the order for a couple of games and I did pretty well, so he just kept me there, pretty much,” the 17-year-old said.

“Usually, I like to bat with some people on, but now, it’s just get on base. That first pitch you see is often a fastball right away so that’s what you’re looking for and it’s a good opportunity to start off the game with a hit right away.”

Pollard has been locked in enough to earn a roster spot with the Ontario Youth Team, which will represent the province at the Canada Summer Games in Winnipeg starting late next week.

Every few years, a Londoner gets that call. The rightfielder’s selection was no surprise.

“He’s really aggressive and loves the game,” Lumley said. “He’s got speed and he can definitely hit the ball. He’s a leader on our team. Not an in-your-face guy, but he leads by example and people follow him.”

This is the third year the midget Badgers have played a schedule against the crafty veterans of the LDBA senior loop. They don’t often win, but as the saying goes, it builds character.

“It’s crazy,” Pollard said. “You might be in there against a 30-year-old. Last year, it was kind of a tough transition. The hitting is definitely the hardest. You have to adapt to the speed and you’ve never seen these guys before.

“But it benefits you in the long run and we’ve been playing well the past few games.”

They proudly took the Oakridge Reds seniors to 13 innings recently.

“We usually play seven and senior is nine,” Pollard said, “so that was pretty much two full games for us.”

And the theory is, by the time you adjust to that level, it should give you an edge when you’re facing your own teen peers.

Or even at a prestigious tournament like the Junior Sunbelt Classic, which Pollard participated in last month in Oklahoma as part of another travelling provincial squad. Individually, he performed well.

“We went down there and faced teams from Tennessee and Texas with a lot of kids committed to Division I schools,” he said. “It was a good experience.”

Baseball isn’t Pollard’s only sporting pursuit. He’s also the quarterback for the London Aquinas secondary school football team. The Flames have high hopes this fall.

“We’ll be pretty good,” said the six-foot-one passer, who is entering Grade 12. “We’ve got 10 to 15 Grade 13s coming back, so we’ll be an older team.”

He isn’t ready to choose one sport over the other yet.

“It really depends on the season,” Pollard said. “I like them both. Baseball, I liked it right from the start. You have two summer choices, right? Baseball or soccer, and I just stuck with baseball the whole time.”

He has been in the Badgers program since minor mosquito, giving him eight years of tenure in the program. That’s rare these days with the number of teams and options available these days.

“You look at last year at age 16,” Lumley said. “He struggled, then started learning what was expected of him and has taken that and ran with it.

“Now, he’s obviously getting rewarded for it.”

And hoping for a lot more first-pitch fastballs, of course. 

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