Simpson County is now home to the Franklin Duelers, a collegiate summer baseball league through the Ohio Valley Baseball League.

The league brings together aspiring college athletes from all over the country to continue their season into the summer playing for experienced coaches and faculty, according to the Ohio Valley Baseball League website.

Phil Cundall, co-owner of the Franklin Duelers along with his wife, Kim, said after working for the Ohio Valley League as an umpire he and his wife decided to bring a team to Franklin.

"We got the ball rolling, last

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June [or] July, now it is here," Cundall said. "It has been a labor of love and we have over 30 kids from all over the country, plus local kids."

Two players on the team are Franklin natives, Matthew Crittenden and Rylan Thomas. The rest of the team is made up of players from Kentucky, Florida, Indiana, California, Tennessee, Louisiana, Puerto Rico, Alabama, Texas, Ohio, Illinois and Oregon.

"It is different for everybody coming from all of the different states, so some of us come from bigger cities and it's a culture shock and some of us come from smaller towns," said Trejen Fox-Birdwell, infield and pitcher.

Many of the players are coming from out of state and families throughout the community were asked to host the players for the two months of the summer season.

"My host family [is] very great, very special," said Brant Alazaus, pitcher. "I appreciate them having me and taking me in."

Fox-Birdwell said there were about seven to 10 players who did not have host families that were living in the cabin in Dad's Blue Grass Campground until either the season ended or they found families to take them in.

"This is my first time being in Kentucky so it is different from what I'm used to," said Jared Cox, infield and pitcher. "I really like it actually."

Cundall said he wanted to keep everything Franklin, so the team wears the Franklin-Simpson colors and plays at Franklin-Simpson High School Baseball Field.

"This is going to be Franklin's new team when the high school is not playing," Cundall said. "Our goal for this was to give back to the community. It is all about the kids and giving back to where we live."

Cundall said the Ohio Valley League is a two-month season with 40 games, 20 on the road and 20 at home.

Head coach for the Duelers, Tucker Hughes, said he and the other coaches evaluated the players' strengths and weaknesses so the team can continue to build and concentrate on becoming stronger.

"I also asked their coaches who they play for back in school," Hughes said. "They tell us what they wanted them to work on, so we tackle that as well."

Cundall said the team practices or works out six days a week whether they are on the field or in the weight room.

"That day we are not out on the field we are in the weight room, we are in the cadges, we are doing something productive," Cox said.

Alazaus said the team has a special opportunity to show the town what collegiate baseball is about and that baseball can be a lot of fun.

"It's kind of setting the standard for the city and kind of showing everybody what we are about and what we can offer to the city," Cox said.

Cox said the Ohio Valley League was a very unique summer baseball experience because it has a very minor league style.

"We are playing almost every day, so we are traveling or at home everyday," Cox said. "It's pretty unique to colligate baseball."

The Duelers have already played two games at the time of press, against the Owensboro RiverDawgs and the Hoptown Hoppers. The Duelers lost their first game against Owensboro with a score 12-2, but won their second game against Hoptown 19-6.

"The first game, I think we had a lot of jitters, Owensboro is a very good ball club, they have been historically good," Hughes said. "We didn't play up to my standards."

Cox said there was some pressure for the first game, they had some jitters and it showed in the score.

"Now that every body is getting on the field and playing, we are getting looser and it is only going to get better from here," Cox said.

Hughes said game two against the Hoptown Hoppers was the standard he wants the team live by.

"We know we will not score 19 runs a game, we know there are going to be games where we are not pitching well, we are not hitting it well," Hughes said.

Fox-Birdwell said the team better in the second game because they know each other better and he believes they will do better going forward.

Hughes said he hopes Franklin and Simpson County will come out to support the Franklin Duelers in their first home game against the Madisonville Miners at 7 p.m. at the Franklin-Simpson Baseball Field.

"Our players are young, they feed off that energy and if we can pack the stands at Franklin-Simpson High School I know our guys will be fired up and hopefully have a great season," Hughes said.

Cundall said he was excited about the team and he hoped the people in Franklin are, too.

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