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Basketball season is still going strong, but a hint of baseball is in the air.

At least two coaches are looking forward to the high school baseball season with greater-than-normal anticipation.

Tim O'Brien will be the new head varsity coach at Wilde Lake, andBill Winder takes over the head job at Oakland Mills.

Both teams have strong players returning and are expected to offer solid competition this year.

"Being head coach gives you the chance to try a lot of things you've always thought about," O'Brien said.

It's the 33-year-old O'Brien's first shot at the top spot after stints as assistant coach at Hammond, Oakland Mills, Archbishop Curley and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

He played catcher for semiproteams for 11 years in New York and Maryland, and his teams twice made it as far as the men's unlimited league World Series.

The Oneidanative and Niagara University graduate teaches social studies at Oakland Mills. He has a master's degree in education and management fromLoyola College.

For Winder, 41, it's been a long time between head coaching jobs.

He was Oakland Mills' first varsity baseball coach in 1973, but left after three years, preferring to coach football instead. He returned to baseball last year as varsity assistant at Oakland Mills.

Winder is a 20-year physical education teacher whose specialty is weight lifting. He runs the weight program at Oakland Mills, and many Scorpion coaches and students have high praise for it.

"We put 200 kids through the weight room every day," he said.

The Long Island native and Towson State graduate played center field for three seasons at Towson.

Winder also has coached the junior varsity football team at Oakland Mills.

In other baseball news:

* The Columbia Reds baseball program has announced the addition of a 20-and-under team that will play in the Baltimore Metro League alongsidesuch giants as Johnny's and Wagner's.

John Lopez, the coordinator, fund-raiser and dominant force behind the Reds program, is negotiating on some land to build a second field for the Reds' program, whichnow plays at Atholton High. Lopez would not disclose the location ofthe land, but said it is within a couple of miles of Atholton.

Lopez also said he has a "99.5 percent commitment" from Toronto Blue Jays scout Wayne Davis to have a Blue Jays tryout camp at the Reds' home field at Atholton High School.

"That should really put Howard County on the map," Lopez said.

The Reds will field teams in the 13-14, 15-16 and 17-18 age divisions of the Baltimore Metro League.

Bill Howley and Lopez will coach the 13-14 team. Larry Thompson and Paul Donovan will coach the 15-16 team, which will play a tournament inSt. Louis. Tom Showe and Matt Myers will coach the 17-18 team, whichwill play in a tournament in Denver.

Tryouts for the 13-14 team will be March 7 and 14. Tryouts for the 15-16 and 17-18 teams will be April 26 and May 2 and 3.

The Reds also will sponsor a free baseball clinic for players 12 and under April 4 at Atholton. High school varsity coaches will teach the clinic.

* In case you haven't noticed, Atholton has become the first school to build dugouts and a press box at its baseball field.

The Atholton Boosters Club raised the money for the project. Atholton also was the first school to have a fully fenced field and an electronic scoreboard.

* Dayton Raiders American Legion coach George Bickerton said the 17-18 team that draws its players from Glenelg, Atholton, Centennial and Mount Hebron high schools likely will play a 40-game schedule this season.

The team will play 24 games within its seven-team North-Central District, and the winner will represent the district in the state playoffs in Hagerstown in August.

"And we're working on a home-and-home schedule with the eight teams in the Montgomery County District," Bickerton said.

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