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RiverDogs back for anothergo-round

Sometimes summer league baseball can benefit both players and coaches.

At least, that's the hope of first-year Southern Oregon RiverDogs head coach Mike Mayben.

Mayben's name has been bandied about the baseball diamond from Little League through the Babe Ruth levels for the past few years, but he'll be taking a crash course in the top level of local competition beginning tonight.

Fortunately, he's not afraid of embarking on a new learning curve. After all, his full-time job is as a teacher at McLoughlin Middle School.

— I love to coach, says Mayben, a 1994 graduate of North Medford High, but with a young family, that kind of time commitment is too much between coaching and working at the same time.

But having the summer off and a family that loves baseball allowed Mayben to agree to replace John White as the RiverDogs open their third season tonight at 7 with a nine-inning game against the Redding Dodgers at Miles Field.

It's a great opportunity for me and the guys, says Mayben, who, along with his wife, Casey, is the father of two girls, Taylor (4) and Mia (2).

I know quite a few of the guys, and they're familiar with me, my coaching style and what I expect, so I think that makes for a good transition for me.

After an inaugural 20-18 season in 2001, the RiverDogs posted a 37-20 record last season that went far in developing a positive reputation statewide.

Mayben's desire is simply to continue what White and RiverDogs president Jim McAbee started two years ago.

We're starting to get our name out there, says Mayben, who played for McAbee while at North. People know who we are and that we play great baseball and put on a quality program down here. That was the goal from the start, and I hope we keep the program there.

While the RiverDogs' leadership is important, the majority of credit for building a thriving franchise goes to the local players who have come back home to take part in the collegiate wooden-bat season.

Eleven of the 23 RiverDogs expected to take part this year are returners, led by former North standouts Steve DeClerck, Ken Halpin, Phil Ouellette and Dan Bruce, as well as Crater graduate Brent Foster, Phoenix's Abe Lupkin, Eagle Point's Jesse Stevenson and Henley's Brad Bailey and Eric Beasley.

Also returning will be Glide standout John Jefferson and Cascade Christian's Bryan Edwards.

I think the nice part about this program is it develops the local kids, says Mayben. I obviously have a personal bias in the area, but I just don't think a lot of guys in this area get a look (from scouts). This is an excellent way to get their name out there.

As we continue to develop a fan base and also a better reputation by playing the kind of ball we did last year, hopefully guys will see this is the next opportunity as they finish high school and go on to the Medford Mustangs and college and then the RiverDogs.

Making their first appearances with the Southern Oregon program this season will be Casey Campbell of Crater, South Medford's Chris Empio, Chuck Shine and Matt Skundrick, Eagle Point's Ryan Garrett and Brandon Willer, Phoenix's Brett Goble, North Medford's Brent Kircher, Ashland's Bill Rowe, Derek Draper of Grants Pass, Henley's Brian Stock and D.J. Kooken of Douglas.

We feel really confident that we have a deep squad talentwise, says Mayben. When we interchange guys, it's not going to hurt our lineup at all. We're not taking a step down no matter who's out there.

2003 RiverDogs Schedule

(Home games in caps at Miles Field)

May 30REDDING DODGERS7 p.m.

May 31REDDING DODGERS (dh)1 p.m.

June 1EUGENE BANDITS (dh)2 p.m.

June 6BEND ELKS7 p.m.

June 7BEND ELKS (dh)4 p.m.

June 8at Siskiyou Suns (dh)1 p.m.

June 13at Mt. Hood Cardinals7 p.m.

June 14at Clackamas Kings (dh)1 p.m.

June 15at Mt. Hood CardinalsNoon

June 20REDDING SPIRITS (dh)5:30 p.m.

June 22at Valley RangersTBA

June 27SAN FRANCISCO7 p.m.

June 28SAN FRANCISCO (dh)TBA

June 29VALLEY RANGERS (dh)1 p.m.

July 11at Bend Elks7 p.m.

July 12at Bend Elks (dh)4 p.m.

July 13SISKIYOU SUNS (dh)1 p.m.

July 18at Butte Sabres7 p.m.

July 19at Butte Sabres (dh)11 a.m.

July 25REDDING SPIRITS (dh)5:30 p.m.

July 26BUTTE SABRES (dh)5:30 p.m.

July 27BUTTE SABRES1 p.m.

Aug. 2EUGENE BANDITS (dh)1 p.m.

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 776-4488, or e-mail