Norths gun shortstop James Linger.
Norths gun shortstop James Linger.

Norths prodigy in Australian Open squad for Beijing Games

By ADAM HICKS sport@northernstar.com.au THE whirlwind rise of Norths baseball prodigy James Linger continued this week with the 17-year-old winning a spot in the Australian open team’s training squad.

Linger made headlines last month when he was paid US$120,000 (A$132,000) to sign with the Atlanta Braves organisation for five years.

He starred at the Australian Under-19 championships and was picked to represent Queensland in Australia’s premier baseball tournament, the Claxton Shield.

Queensland were knocked out of the Claxton Shield last weekend and despite missing the first three games, Linger still knocked up the highest batting average for the tournament.

Not bad for a high school kid playing against major league players and Olympians.

And now Australian assistant coach Phil Dale said Linger had the potential become an Olympian too.

“There is a need for his position, shortstop, and we feel like he’s one of the bright young guys who play that position,” Dale said.

“We carry an Australian roster that we select the official team from and he’s on the squad.

“His selection is a compliment to the way he’s come on the past 12 months.

“We want to bring him in and have a good look at him. “He’ll have a uniform that says ‘Australia’ and he will be playing in some preliminary games to see how he shapes up.”

The Australian team will play a seven-game friendly series against Canada, starting later this month, before heading to Taiwan for the Olympic qualifying tournament.

“Realistically, he’s a couple of years from holding down the position but the way he’s playing he has every opportunity,” Dale said.

“You never know the way he is going. “We wouldn’t bring him in if we didn’t seriously want to have a look at him.

“He is hitting the ball really well, running the bases ... he has some tools, he’s an athlete.

“We’re looking for middle infielders to take away to the pre-Olympic tournament.”

Linger goes into camp with the Australian squad from February 21.

“There are some exceptional players in the team,” Dale said.

“It’s definitely a compliment to him, especially with the company he’s around. Some have played eight years of professional baseball.

“He will get a game in an exhibition game.” But is he in genuine contention for a spot in the Australian Olympic team?

“If he plays well enough,” Dale said. “That’s the intention of bringing him in and seeing what he can do.”



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