When the players arrive for the Pinellas County High School League opener next month, they will meet an entity they may not know or like _ the Baker System.
For 30 years, the league attracted thousands of area youngsters, sent many into the adult bowling ranks and a few to the pros. The league produced six state championship teams and coasted along under its own rules.
All that changes with the start of the season Aug. 22 at Seminole Lanes. In with the Baker System, out with tradition.
"We're eventually going to have to go that direction, so why not do it now?" said Dean Rosko, coach of the six-time league champion Seminole girls squad.
Rosko's question came a third of the way through a coaches/
proprietors/administrators meeting last week, and turned a usually routine event into a two-hour discussion of the format change.
Under the Baker System, five players make up a team, each rolling two frames per scratch game. The concept was adopted years ago by the colleges and a number of older prep programs.
The ABC built the successful seven-year-old Brunswick World Team Challenge around the Baker format with about 20 national stops, including two at Seminole Lanes. Some Florida schools play Baker, and last year's state high school tournament used the system.
The idea is to promote the team concept and allow more players to compete, since free substitutions are allowed.
Rosko and others at the meeting were well aware that perhaps two years down the line, bowling will become a sanctioned prep sport in the state.
Two weeks ago, the Florida High School Activities Association recognized boys and girls bowling and girls weightlifting, the final step toward eventual sanction. If enough schools participate the next two years, sanctioning is assured.
Some league coaches have had mixed results in familiarizing their players with Baker. Some bowlers liked it, others did not. The dissenters say the format cuts out individual stats, high games/series and honor scores.
But it eliminates egos.
"The league was conceived to give boys and girls the opportunity to represent their schools and compete under tournament conditions," said league executive director Matt Stevenson, new co-owner of Dunedin Lanes.
"It will be interesting to see how many don't show because of Baker," he said.
Because of the difficulty in recruiting players, it was decided to cut the Baker squads from five bowlers to four. And, how is the system used with only four players?
"You run through the rotation twice, then the No. 1 and 2 bowlers roll the ninth and 10th frames, simple," league secretary Janet Waddell said.
With the new format, Waddell's work load increases two-fold. She has to compile weekly statistics for boys and girls, varsity and junior varsity, scratch and handicap, Baker scores, team standings and individual averages, high games and series.
The new format will be two regular games followed by two Baker games.
The league always has rolled three regular games, scored on scratch and handicap basis, with a 21-point system. An 18-point scoring format, including all four games, was introduced.
Coaches voted to allow one girls and one boys varsity team and two JV squads with a maximum of six players per team per school, a carryover from last season. However, the Baker squads would have four bowlers, with substitutions allowed.
Team tryouts are Aug. 7-16. Players should contact their local center. The individual cost is $70, which covers YABA sanction, shirts, trophies and an awards banquet. Bowlers should avoid paying a double YABA sanction fee.
In November, the Dixie Hollins boys won their fifth league scratch title and defending champion Gibbs finished third behind Largo. Boca Ciega captured the handicap crown. Northeast and St. Petersburg followed.
The Northeast girls took the scratch championship, beating East Lake and Pinellas Park. Seminole won the handicap title, with Dixie Hollins second and East Lake third. There were 46 teams in the league.
The Okeechobee girls and Miami Coral Reef boys won state championships at Seminole Lanes, and New Port Richey's Jamie Potter rolled the first perfect game in prep tournament history.
ZONE RESULTS: Arleen and Scott Gross of New Port Richey won the Florida West Coast Zone singles and mixed doubles tournament last week at Liberty Lanes.
Arleen captained the winning team, which logged a 2,572 scratch and 2,910 handicap total. The squad led by St. Petersburg's Charlie Smith finished second at 2,883, and Team NABI from Clearwater was third at 2,852.
The Gross' captured the doubles title with a 1,517 handicap pinfall. Crystal and Loren Duck placed second, 1,489; and Celsi and Antonio Franco third, 1,469.
AROUND THE LANES: Greg Sexton rolled a 300 and Chuck Minor a 299 at Liberty Lanes. Bob Mourer and John and Bridgett Freeburg won the $1,000 monthly Saturday handicap event at Liberty. George Tesnovich recorded a 299-631 at Southland Lanes. Justin Veitch fired a 300-715. Butch Ditmer posted a 300-840 at Sunrise Lanes, the highest 800 series this season. Gysin Bardo fired a 300-625 at Ten Pin Lanes.
Phil Gulick can be reached at xerxes8msn.com.