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For Generals pitcher Blake Payne, it's a summer homecoming

By jhornberg
May 31, 2010 at 12:31 a.m.

Blake Payne, 20, will pitch for the Victoria Generals for his second season. The Memorial alumnus, who just finished his second season at Seminole State College in Oklahoma, is looking to play for a major college program.

The rest of the leagueThe Texas Collegiate League added two teams to the five that played last season, including one in Louisiana. The league includes two of its original teams. Here's a roundup on the TCL's other six teams:

Texas TomcatsThe Texas Tomcats will call the baseball rich community of Weimar home during its inaugural season in the TCL. The team will play its home games at historic Veterans Memorial Park, which was built in 1948. The Tomcats will be led by head coach Thad Rhea, who is currently the assistant coach at Texas A&M-Kingsville.

Alexandria AcesThe Aces will be making the switch from a semi-professional organization to a summer collegiate team in their inaugural season in the TCL. The Aces have formerly been members of the Texas-Louisiana League, United Baseball League, and most recently, the Continental Baseball League.

East Texas Pump JacksThe Pump Jacks finished in second place in the 2009 regular season with a record of 26-19. and will be entering into their third season in the TCL. They return head coach Ben Taylor, who serves as the associate head coach at Scottsdale Community College in Arizona.

Brazos Valley BombersThe Bombers earned a playoff spot on the last day of the 2009 regular season with a record of 19-27 before falling to the Generals in the opening round. The Bombers return third-year head coach Brent Alumbaugh.

North Texas CopperheadsAfter starting the 2009 season in last place with a record of 2-11, the Copperheads climbed out of the cellar to finish the season in third place with a record of 21-26. North Texas defeated the Pump Jacks in the opening round of the playoffs before defeating the Generals in the TCL Championship Series. It was the Copperheads third title in six years.

McKinney MarshalsThe Marshals struggled during the 2009 season, finishing outside of playoff contention with a record of 18-28. After retooling their front office during the off-season, the Marshals are expected to contend once again for a TCL championship. The Marshals and the Copperheads are the only two teams left of the original eight teams that founded the league in 2004.

COURTESY OF THE VICTORIA GENERALS In a little under two-and-a-half months, the Victoria Generals will play 56 games and an All-Star game as part of the TCL season, and that doesn't include the playoffs. The season opens at home against the Texas Tomcats on Tuesday, and close at home on Aug. 9 against the Tomcats.

June 1, 7:05 p.m. Texas Tomcats



June 2, 7:05 p.m. East Texas Pump Jacks

June 3, 7:05 p.m. East Texas Pump Jacks

June 5, 7:05 p.m. Texas Tomcats

June 8, 7:05 p.m. @ East Texas Pump Jacks

June 9, 7:05 p.m. - @ East Texas Pump Jacks

June 10, 7:05 p.m. - @ Alexandria Aces

June 11, 7:05 p.m. - @ Brazos Valley Bombers

June 12, 7:05 p.m. - Alexandria Aces

June 13, 7:05 p.m. - Alexandria Aces

June 14, 7:05 p.m. - @ Brazos Valley Bombers

June 15, 7:05 p.m. - @ East Texas Pump Jacks

June 17, 7:05 p.m. - East Texas Pump Jacks

June 18, 7:05 p.m. - Brazos Valley Bombers

June 19, 7:05 p.m. - Brazos Valley Bombers

June 20, 7:05 p.m. - @ Texas Tomcats

June 21, 7:05 p.m. - @ Alexandria Aces

June 22, 7:05 p.m. - @ Alexandria Aces

June 23, 7:05 p.m. - @ Alexandria Aces

June 24, 7:05 p.m. - @ McKinney Marshals

June 26, 7:05 p.m. - Brazos Valley Bombers

June 27, 7:05 p.m. - Brazos Valley Bombers

June 28, 7:05 p.m. - McKinney Marshals

June 29, 7:05 p.m. - @ North Texas Copperheads

July 1, 7:05 p.m. - @ Brazos Valley Bombers

July 2, 7:05 p.m. - Texas Tomcats

July 3, 7:05 p.m. - North Texas Copperheads

July 5 - TCL All-Star Game

July 7, 7:05 p.m. - Texas Tomcats

July 8, 7:05 p.m. - McKinney Marshals

July 9, 7:05 p.m. - McKinney Marshals

July 10, 7:05 p.m. - @ North Texas Copperheads

July 12, 7:05 p.m. - Brazos Valley Bombers

July 13, 7:05 p.m. - Brazos Valley Bombers

July 16, 7:05 p.m. - @ Texas Tomcats

July 17, 7:05 p.m. - @ Brazos Valley Bombers

July 18, 7:05 p.m. - North Texas Copperheads

July 19, 7:05 p.m. - @ Brazos Valley Bombers

July 20, 7:05 p.m. - North Texas Copperheads

July 21, 7:05 p.m. - Alexandria Aces

July 22, 7:05 p.m. - @ Texas Tomcats

July 23, 7:05 p.m. - @ North Texas Copperheads

July 24, 7:05 p.m. - @ North Texas Copperheads

July 25, 7:05 p.m. - Brazos Valley Bombers

July 27, 7:05 p.m. - @ McKinney Marshals

July 28, 7:05 p.m. - @ McKinney Marshals

July 29, 7:05 p.m. - McKinney Marshals

July 30, 7:05 p.m. - McKinney Marshals

July 31, 7:05 p.m. - Texas Tomcats

August 1, 7:05 p.m. - @ Brazos Valley Bombers

August 2, 7:05 p.m. - @ Brazos Valley Bombers

August 3, 7:05 p.m. - East Texas Pump Jacks

August 5, 7:05 p.m. - @ Alexandria Aces

August 6, 7:05 p.m. - @ East Texas Pump Jacks

August 7, 7:05 p.m. - @ Texas Tomcats

August 8, 7:05 p.m. - @ McKinney Marshals

August 9, 7:05 p.m. - Texas Tomcats

Blake Payne already had a formidable repertoire. But he felt he still needed more.

"I'm a fastball-slider-changeup pitcher," he said. "I like to get ahead early with the fastball and use the slider as my out pitch."

Before the start of his second season playing baseball at Seminole State College in Seminole, Okla., he went back to the drawing board to develop something different.

"It was early in January, and I was just playing catch in our in-door facility in Oklahoma," he said. "I started messing around with it from the first couple of times I threw it. So I just kept working on it and working on it, and it became one of my best pitches."

The 20-year-old Payne, who graduated from Memorial in 2008, is returning for a second season with the Generals, his hometown team, added a fourth pitch to his game, hoping it will help him perform well enough to take the next step in his career without looking beyondthe 2010 TCL season.

"My goal is to sign with a college and get that over with," he said. "Also, to come out and have a good summer and enjoy it, but at the same time be effective for the team."

Payne added that there are a few colleges that are interested in signing him, but he wanted to keep his options open for as long as possible.

And his numbers last season in Victoria showed he was no slouch. Of the Generals' 30 regular season wins, Payne had six of them. His earned-run average was well below 3 for the season.

He said his team played a big role in his success last season.

"I had a lot of run support and they played good defense behind me," he said. "I pretty much went in just pitching to contact and it worked out all season."

Payne said he had been looking at playing in the TCL before the start of last season, and playing in Victoria was a major factor.

"I wanted to play summer ball, but I also wanted to be close to home," he said. "When I saw that Victoria was getting a Texas Collegiate League team, I hopped all over that and decided to call down here and try to get a spot on the team.

"It was good coming back in front of my home town at Riverside Stadium I grew up playing at. Playing in front of all my friends and family, it was really neat."

Payne approached the team about playing, and made the roster. It was a decision members of the Generals' front office, including general manager Blake Koch, did not regret.

"His name was brought to us early on," Koch said. "He had a first shot-first look from us, and it was a no-brainer on our end that we wanted him."

Generals coach Chris Clemons said the decision was with Payne on whether to return, and that he would be welcomed back not only because of his performance, but the intangibles he brought as well.

"In terms of not only what he did on the mound but what he did for this group, being a local guy, having family, having friends, being a great competitor, being a leader in this club house," Clemons said. "It was just the fact that, if he wanted to come back or go play somewhere else."

Koch said Payne was one of the best pitchers in the TCL last season, and said Payne was robbed of the league's pitcher of the year award. After last season, Koch said Payne was one of the top players the team wanted to bring back.

"He was a guy that me and Coach Clemons, we sat down and determined who do we want to bring back," he said. "And Blake was at the top of that list. He's a local player, he's the type of kid that could have a future in professional baseball if he keeps putting up the numbers he does.

"Even from a character stand point, Blake's a great kid. Everybody in Victoria here loves him. He was on the top of our grocery list for players that we wanted to have come back."

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