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Jefferson shines on the diamond

Local helps Canadian Thunder win U.S. World Series title
Don Fennell
sports reporter

It seems like Tyler Jefferson was born to play baseball.

Although he continues to dabble in other sports like rugby and hockey, it is America's game that provides the most satisfaction. Yet it has also produced its share of frustrations.

He played baseball locally, primarily as a pitcher, until he was 12-years-old. But at 10 he began attending off-season clinics and in 1997 was invited to play with the Kennedy-Surrey Rockies, 1996 Canadian Little League champions. He played all season with the club but at the last minute was declared ineligible for post-season play because he didn't live within the actual boundaries.

Reluctantly, because of the politics, he left the Rockies prior to the start of last season to find a team where he would be eligible to play regardless of his residence. That led him to contact Mike Wilson, coach of the Northern Thunder.

Made up of several players determined to play college ball in the United States, the Thunder had left the White Rock Babe Ruth system to play as an independent in the Mickey Mantle league in Blaine, Wash. But just before Jefferson was ready to join the Thunder he was asked to play for a 16- to 18-year-old Canadian team that played at the same park for the same reasons.

He ended up spending most of the season with the Northern Reign, which played an ambitious schedule against teams throughout the Seattle area.

One of the high points of Jefferson's season came in his very first at-bat for the Reign against Richmond's own midget premier team. Sent in as a pinch hitter, he promptly launched a home run over the left centre field fence in Blaine.

"It just sailed over the 360-foot mark," marveled his dad John.

But it proved only to be the start of the highlights in 98.

Late in the summer, the Thunder had a player injured in a car accident and asked Jefferson to join their team to make a run at representing Canada at the National Amateur Baseball Federation regional playoffs in Seattle. With his contribution, they went on to capture the NABF World Series in Miamsburg, Ohio.

"I really love the game," said Jefferson. "And just the fact that I get to play a lot is fun."

A big fan of St. Louis Cardinals' slugger Mark McGwire, he recently helped the Thunder kick off their 100-game 1999 schedule by playing a lead role in the club winning the 15-year-old division at a 16-and-under USSSA World Series qualifier in Blaine to earn a berth to the national World Series in Winterhaven, Florida.

The Thunder declined their opportunity to play in Florida, however, so they can instead play in the prestigious Continental Amateur Baseball Association's International World Series in Crystal Lake, Illinois. The 10-day tournament in August will bring together 32 teams from the United States, Japan, Central America and the Caribbean.

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