Locker Enjoys First Summer Baseball Game

June 7, 2008

BELLINGHAM (AP) - It wasn't easy being a Bellingham Bells fan for a Friday night season opener beset by multiple errors. But every time the Bells took the field, all eyes turned to center field. Jake Locker, nearby Ferndale's hometown hero, was home.

University of Washington football coach Tyrone Willingham gave star quarterback Locker the go-ahead to play in the summer baseball league for college players on condition that he not pitch. He wants to preserve Locker's arm for the football field.

Then Locker had to move two final exams from next week to Friday to be eligible.

Still, though he hadn't played with a baseball team for two years, Locker said he had a good time.

'I really enjoyed it,' he said, flashing a goofy grin after signing autographs for dozens of starstruck fans.

Fans seemed bored for much of the game, which ended with the Bells falling to the Everett Merchants, 11-1, but when Locker came to bat, fans from both sides of the field sat up and cheered.

Pitcher Jay Taylor walked Locker on his first at-bat in the first inning. The second time around, in the third inning, Locker belted the ball over the center fielder's head. While Everett Merchant Chris Sturdivant chased down the ball, Locker raced past second base and headed for third. The throw from Sturdivant got there first.

Still, the fans didn't seem to care that Locker was thrown out or that their Bells were down 8-0 in the bottom of the third. As Locker dusted himself off and trotted to the dugout, the fans cheered wildly.

Locker bemoaned his decision after the game.

'That was stupid,' he said. 'I came around second and forgot to look at the third-base coach. I got halfway there and he was giving me the stop sign. That was terrible.'

Locker went down swinging on two of his other at-bats.

In the top of the sixth, when the Merchants nearly made it through their entire lineup, Locker caught three high flies in a row.

Bells head coach Brandon Newell said Locker expects to play more than half of Bellingham's 55 games, including some road trips.

'He just wants to come out here and run around and not have a lot of pressure,' Newell said.

The coach also seemed impressed with Locker's showing off the field. As fans thrust baseballs and game programs toward him, Locker took it all in stride.

'Just to see the way he interacts with our fans is every bit as special as his athletic ability,' Newell said.

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