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JETHAWKS NOTEBOOK: PLUMMER A FAN OF INDY LEAGUES.

Byline: Gideon Rubin Special to the Daily News

LANCASTER - JetHawks manager Bill Plummer isn't rooting for the Fullerton Flyers, Long Beach Armada, San Diego Surf Dawgs or Yuma Scorpions.

He does want the new independent Golden Baseball League to survive.

Plummer, who spent five years managing independent ball in the now- defunct Western League - three in Chico, two in Yuma - believes the new league, which debuted three weeks ago, faces tough challenges. Maintaining viable franchises in all seven markets currently fielding teams is essential to the league's survival.

``It gives communities baseball that don't have it, and it gives kids a chance to play and still finish school,'' Plummer said. ``It fulfills a lot of different purposes.''

Plummer's entire coaching staff has some background in independent ball. Pitching coach Jeff Pico spent part of his six-year coaching career at Chico under Plummer. Hitting coach Damon Mashore played briefly for Plummer-managed Yuma in 2000.

JetHawks general manager Brad Seymour spent three seasons as the Sioux Falls (S.D.) Canaries' general manager before coming to Lancaster.

JetHawks shortstop Stephen Drew played for Camden (N.J.) in the independent Atlantic League before ending a yearlong holdout and signing a $5.5 million contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Although known primarily for goofy gimmicks, independent ball features players from widely diverse baseball backgrounds. Aging former major- leaguers play alongside undrafted former collegians.

The GBL's biggest name is Rickey Henderson, playing for the Surf Dawgs.

``There is certainly a growing place for independent baseball in the world of professional baseball, because of the number of players who seek a second, or in some cases a first, chance to prove themselves,'' Seymour said.

The three most recent JetHawks who came to Lancaster from independent ball - Drew, Dan Firlit (2002 and 2003) and Mashore (2002) - reflect that diversity.

Drew played independent ball to keep his playing skills sharp and showcase his talents to scouts.

Firlit was about to applying for the fire academy while playing at Schaumburg (Ill.) in the independent Northern League when the Diamondbacks signed him to a free-agent contract.

Mashore was on the downside of a professional career that included stints with the Oakland A's and the Angels when he played for Yuma. He returned to affiliated ball after that but never again played in the major leagues.

``I think it gives a lot of kids second chances,'' Plummer said. ``A lot of the kids (in independent ball) who are coming off injuries, major-league teams won't touch them.''

For his part, Plummer loves the urgency independent level players bring to the game.

``They play really hard,'' Plummer said. ``They're there because they love baseball.''

The proliferation of newly constructed state-of-the-art facilities in recent years has helped independent baseball shed its sweatshop image.

``I believe (independent ball) has established itself as strong environment that major league clubs can look to in acquiring and developing talent that otherwise, may have never been exposed to,'' Seymour said.

Gideon Rubin, (818)713-3607

gideon.rubin(at)dailynews.com
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jun 15, 2005
Words:499
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