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The boys of summer

Who says nothing happens on campus over the summer?

This year, no baseball fan will be able to make that claim as the Lake Erie Monarchs of the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League will be playing all of their home games at Steller Field.

Established in 1987, the Great Lakes League features some of the top college baseball players from around the country, with the majority of them coming from Midwestern colleges in Ohio, Michigan, Indiana and Illinois.

Steller Field once hosted another GLL team in the Bowling Green Breeze which was a charter member from 1987 to 1991.

Now, the all wooden-bat circuit is back in town and more prestigious than it was then. Over 600 players have been drafted professionally after playing for teams in the 20-year history of the league.

Those kinds of numbers pretty much guarantee fans that they’ll be seeing at least one Major League caliber-prospect here every night. The Monarchs themselves have had approximately 15 players earn professional contracts in their nine-year history, including two first-round draft picks five years ago.

This level of skilled collegiate competition can only be seen elsewhere in the Cape Cod League, which is nearly 800 miles away and widely recognized as the top summer ball league in the country.

But for baseball fans in BG, they’ll have their own share of quality amateur talent in town this summer.

Previously, the Monarchs played in Ned Skeldon Stadium in Toledo, former home of the Toledo Mud Hens. According to team GM Jim DeSana, this year they decided to move on for rather interesting reasons.

‘We joined a group called Catholic Athletes for Christ,’ DeSana said. ‘We are now an outreach program working through St. Thomas More Church in Bowling Green.

‘The other reason was that we just wanted to be in a college town.’

BG varsity baseball coach Danny Schmitz thinks they just may have picked the perfect one.

‘It’s great for the community because if they want to see some of the better collegiate baseball players around, they can come right here to Steller Field,’ Schmitz said after a recent Falcon win. ‘Bowling Green is just such a great baseball town, so we’re glad to have the Great Lakes League here now.’

Before the Monarchs decided to come, Steller Field remained rather vacant in the summer months.

With the exception of a few youth summer camps and the Great Black Swamp Tournament in late June, nothing really happened on the Falcon baseball team’s facility.

One might worry that with so much talent coming in from all over the Midwest, the team runs the risk of losing interest from the citizens in town who have probably never heard of these players.

That’s unlikely to be the case, however, as there will be four familiar names in the lineup most nights.

Falcon players David Borcherdt, Kevin Leady, Brennan Smith, and Derek Spencer all were selected as members of the 2008 Lake Erie Monarchs, though that was no easy accomplishment.

‘Players get placed onto our team through their college coach’s recommendation,’ DeSana said.

‘Typically, we’ll get 70 to 80 recommendations each year, and then we have to refine it down based on position and pitching needs.’

In Schmitz’ opinion, having four Falcons on the 24-player Monarch roster will be exceptional.

‘I think that’s great. It’s huge that we placed four guys on the team,’ Schmitz said.

‘They can all play here at home and their friends and family will get a chance to watch them,’

BG fans might recognize one other name on the roster this year.

Achter. No, not Kate, the former Falcon women’s basketball standout.

Her cousin A.J., a freshman pitcher for Michigan State and recent graduate of Clay High School in Oregon, Ohio, will be tossing quite a few innings at Steller Field in June, July, and August.

And most of them will be seen by his friends and family, as they were last year when he went 7-1 with a 0.92 ERA and struck out 102 batters for the Clay Eagles.

‘That’s exactly the reason I decided to come play for the Lake Erie Monarchs,’ Achter said.

‘Being away up at Michigan State all year, it’s been tough so it will be nice to get back home and have my family close to me. I’ll get to sleep in my own bed every night.’

Between games, he might get to shoot a few hoops with his Mid-American Conference Player of the Year cousin.

‘I’m sure I’ll get to see her. She always calls me during the summer to play basketball or golf, plus our brothers play on the same baseball team so we’ll see each other a lot,’ Achter said.

Derek Spencer, who has known A.J. since they were 10, is also excited about his upcoming experiences with the Monarchs in BG.

‘I’ll be living in an apartment and working out at the Sebo Center, so I’m looking forward to it,’ Spencer said. ‘The Great Lakes League is a great one to be in. There’s a lot of good competition and quite a few MAC guys in it too.’

While the team will be managed by two coaches hired from Florida and Texas, two rather intense areas of college baseball talent, Achter remains most excited about the relatively relaxing environment that summer ball will provide.

‘My favorite part is how loose everybody is,’ he said. ‘It’s not as serious as the spring season, so it’s nice to just relax and play some baseball.’

That baseball will begin at 5:30 p.m. on June 18 from Steller Field when the Monarchs host the Xenia Athletes in Action.

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