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The national baseball championships get started Thursday and no surprise, the Lumley family is in the middle of them.
Mike Lumley, a former pro pitcher, is the longtime coach and head guy at the Badgers minor baseball program, an organization he built into developing numerous college-, university- and pro-level players as his teams have won four national titles.
Beginning Thursday his midgets will be the host club for the national midget championships.
Proving the apple never falls far from the tree, Lumley’s 13-year-old, Carson, has been picked up by North York to join them in their quest for the peewee nationals in Quebec in two weeks.
Mike’s eldest, soon-to-be 24-year-old Mitch, was asked to join the Mississauga Twins for their foray into the senior national championships but after a roster mixup, he won’t be joining them.
Still the Lumley family continues to put their mark on the local, and national, baseball scene.
Not surprising, Poppa Lumley is proud of his brood.
“It’s different when you have some physical ability, but when you can do something with it too, use those skills for that level, it’s an accomplishment,” he said. “They both work very hard.
“Carson’s a little like me. He’s quite determined, doesn’t like to lose and likes to do everything to the best of his ability.”
The midget nationals run through Sunday at Aldridge Field, Dan Pulham Field and Labatt Park. There will be 11 teams beginning play, including the Tecumseh Thunder as the other Ontario team. The medal games will be played at Labatt Park beginning Sunday at 4 p.m. with the final at 7 p.m.
Lumley has done everything he can to prepare his team for elite competition. Midgets are 18 years old and under, but this Badger team plays in the Southwestern Senior Men’s League.
“We are young but very strong,” Lumley said. “The majority of the team is 17. We only have two graduating players this year. But they are seasoned. We’ve been playing in the Southwestern men’s league with Ilderton, Strathroy. We lost to Strathroy last week 6-4, but it was steady, it was clean. You expect a team with that physicality to beat you. But the guys pitched well. But you have to realize that the balls a midget player would hit wouldn’t go very far. Those guys are men, so they go a little farther.”
The Badgers are in the bottom third of the standings, but playing against men prepares them better to play at an elite level.
“The biggest thing is the maturity level was really raised when they began to understand that it’s okay to lose to senior team and men,” Lumley said.
Lumley’s club plays in other leagues as well, but they found they weren’t growing because they were much better than other teams and putting an opponent in a mercy situation doesn’t do much for either team.
“The next time you come around (to play them), you don’t play as well and you just play down,” Lumley said. “You want to continuously play above your competition as much as you can without obviously deterring confidence. You want to be able to go out and work towards something and learn as you move along.
“Some of these guys want to go on to college and college is not going to be easy. It’s not just a walk and go. The more they learn here, the better.”
Lumley says it’s important the players understand the process in playing against older competition. He says he explains to his players exactly what he wants the team to accomplish. He also gives his players plenty of chances to learn. He expects these midgets will play anywhere between 80 and 100 games this year.
“We can learn how to pick up a baseball, but how do you do it in competition when a guy hits the ball in the gap?” Lumley says. “Where do you go? Are you making those right decisions during game time rather than practice time?
“If a guy hits it because he’s stronger, that’s fine. But are we doing the right things instead of booting it around? A ball is a ball is a ball. It doesn’t matter whose bat it’s coming off of. It’s still a baseball. You pick it up, you throw it to first base and we’re good. If you don’t, that’s different.”
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