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Times reporter Bob Condotta keeps the news coming about the Montlake Dawgs.

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June 7, 2008 3:08 PM

A little bit more on Locker and baseball

Posted by Bob Condotta

It's Saturday afternoon as I type this, and from what I understand, Jake Locker has probably just completed his first full practice with the Bellingham Bells.

Coach Brandon Newell said last night the plan was for the team to practice today --- most of players just got to town in the last day or so --- before returning to the field for another game tonight.

Newell and others with the Bells say they realize some Husky football fans are nervous about Locker potentially getting hurt playing baseball.

Bells general manager Dave Lewis joked that "every time I speak to a Rotary club, there's one guy who stands up and asks that.''

Newell said he talked with UW coach Tyrone Willingham about the situation before Locker was given the okay to play. "The number one thing that happened was I made Jake go talk with coach Willingham before this start and get his blessing,'' Newell said.

Newell also said he thinks Locker's summer baseball playing could help on the football field this fall.

"He's a competitor,'' Newell said. "All they (UW football coaches) cared about is that their best competitor gets to compete for two more months out of the year, and that is going to make him a better football player.''

Locker insisted again he will play it as safe as possible. Though Bellingham's pitching got rocked repeatedly Friday, Locker said afterward that didn't make him want to take the mound --- he promised he wouldn't pitch as a condition of getting the okay to play. "No,'' he said with a smile. "I'm happy where I'm at.''

Locker also said the headfirst slide into third in the fourth inning was safer than it would have been going in with his feet.

"I figured if I slide that way, it's not my ankle, not (any chance of) catching my ankle,'' he said.

Still, I think Locker's baseball foray may be a bit more intense than UW coaches initially anticipated. When first asked about it last winter, Willingham said Locker's number of potential games "sounds like it's a very minimal number. ... we came to an understanding that this was a very minimal number of games.''

Newell, meanwhile, said he thinks Locker may play as many as 35 of the team's 52 games. Locker is non-committal, saying he will evaluate his schedule every week and decide which ones to play, working it around football commitments.

Watching Friday night, it seemed evident Locker will try to play as much as possible. Despite the 11-1 loss, he was obviously having a good time throughout. He hung out afterward for 10-15 minutes or so signing autographs, posing for pictures and saying hello to a lot of familiar faces. That's not to mention leading the "Happy Birthday'' singalong to his grandmother, Barbara.

He also showed a lot of ability, from the rocket double, to the easy catches, to the throw to third that almost nabbed a runner (the throw bounced once and proved too hot to handle for the third baseman).

"I had a good time,'' he said. "I really enjoyed it.''

As I mentioned earlier, it's not in the plans to get to many more games, if any. But I'll try to keep you abreast of all of his baseball activities this summer as best I can.


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