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Prep Baker System is in

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 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 seasons, 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."

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.

ZONE RESULTS: New Port Richey's Arleen and Scott Gross won the West Coast singles and doubles tourney at Liberty Lanes.

Phil Gulick can be reached at xerxes8msn.com.

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