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Published: Wednesday, 7/6/2011

Summer baseball league in full swing

Area families host Lake Erie Monarchs

BY PAYTON WILLEY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Collegiate baseball players, including Breck Ashdown, travel to the Toledo area to play for the Lake Erie Monarchs. Collegiate baseball players, including Breck Ashdown, travel to the Toledo area to play for the Lake Erie Monarchs.
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The Lake Erie Monarchs of the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League play host to some of the nation's top collegiate baseball talent each summer.

Monarchs' General Manager Jim DeSana of Monroe, who coached the team early on, said the team has long-standing relationships with Division I colleges, primarily within the Big Ten and MAC, along with five or six other schools where they receive their players.

Third-year coach Mike Montgomery said playing on a summer league offers several advantages for players.

"One of the great things about the summer leagues is they have gone to wooden bats" instead of aluminum, he said.

"It gives a lot of the professional scouts an opportunity to see what a ballplayer, whether he's a hitter or pitcher, how they respond and can compete with a wooden bat."

Since the team was established in 1999, 41 of their players have been drafted or signed including three first-round draft picks: Ball State's Colbrin Vitek of Bryan (Boston Red Sox) in 2010; Toledo's Mitch Maier of Novi, Mich. (Kansas City Royals) in 2003, and Ball State's Brad Snyder of Bellevue (Chicago Cubs) in 2003.

Players, who range from college freshmen to seniors, are recommended to the Monarchs by their college coaches and travel from across the country to play on the team.

Although several of the Monarchs travel from out of state, there are a few from the Toledo area on the team as well, including Alex Radon of Sylvania, a junior at the University of Toledo and the Monarchs' starting pitcher.

Other local players are Mike Moyer, a junior at Western Michigan from Sylvania, Delta's Eric Vaughan a junior transfer at Ashland University from Owens Community College, Taylor Dimmerling, a sophomore at Eastern Michigan from Perrysburg.

Kurt Farmer, who plays first and third base, attends the University of Nebraska.

This is his second season with the team. Farmer was set up by his college coach to join the Monarchs.

"I loved it so much I wanted to come back," he said.

Out-of-state players stay with host families.

The team is co-sponsored by the Catholic Athletes of Christ, and the team advertises the need for host families in Catholic churches in the Toledo area.

The Monarchs' season runs from mid-June until the end of July and consists of 42 regular season games, nine Alaska preseason games, and then playoffs, which will finish by the first week of August.

Recently, the Monarchs switched their home field to Ned Skeldon Stadium in Maumee.

"We decided we were gonna try and play on a turf field to see if it could cut down on rainouts. After a year at Adrian College, the best way to describe it is, it's booked solid all summer for legion tournaments," DeSana said.

"Toledo was the best home for our team. We love Skeldon. It's the best facility in the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League and the best playing surface in the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League."

Though the Great Lakes League primarily features matchups among Ohio teams, the Monarchs just completed a 10-day, nine-game tour against teams in Alaska.

The Alaska Baseball league invites about five or six teams from different summer leagues to play against the Alaskan teams for about two weeks as exhibition games.

Lake Erie won five games and lost four against teams in Anchorage, Kenai, Palmer, and Fairbanks.

Although the majority of the trip was dedicated to baseball, the team hiked and fished too.

The experience marked Farmer's first trip to Alaska.

"It was pretty cool," he said. "Sometimes it was tough to go to bed because it's always light out in Alaska during the summers, and I think we probably didn't get the sleep we should have, but it was good just hanging out with the team."

Despite the lack of sleep, the Monarchs managed a winning record, fished for halibut in Homer, and climbed to the top of Flat Rock Mountain in Anchorage.

The team also traveled to Alaska in 2004, 2006, and 2009.

The trip was funded in part by the players, a Texas Hold 'em fund-raiser, and the Alaska Baseball League, which provided transportation and housing for the team. Meals were paid for primarily by the players.

Coach Montgomery said the team's goal this year is to play in the triple ADA World Series in Johnstown, Pa., where eligible players cannot be over age 20.

"We try to keep a fairly young roster," Mr. Montgomery he said.

Contact Payton Willey at: paytonwilley@theblade.com or 419-724-6065.



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