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Ogden Raptors still waiting for elusive championship

OGDEN — Maybe Lindquist Field was built on the hallowed ground of some secret, ancient burial site of the Ute or Paiute Indian tribes.

Or perhaps the Ogden Raptors' home field, which boasts one of the best views in all of professional baseball, was once the final resting place of prehistoric dinosaurs, thousands of years ago. Thus, by having the audacity to construct a baseball stadium there, and then naming the team that plays there the "Raptors" — a ferocious (and, thanks to the "Jurassic Park" films, somewhat fictionalized) carnivore that roamed the earth way, way, way back in the day — the Ogden franchise incurred some sort of dreadful "Curse of the Creature" that has prevented them from winning a Pioneer League championship.

OK, so it's not nearly as glamorous as the famed "Curse of the Bambino" which befuddled the Boston Red Sox for nearly 90 years, or the "Curse of the Billy Goat" which continues to plague the Chicago Cubs, who haven't reached the World Series since 1945 and haven't won Major League Baseball's annual Fall Classic for more than a century.

But, come on now, how else would you explain Ogden's futility when it comes to claiming a league crown? After all, the Raptors — the baseball team, not those vicious critters that continually terrorized cast members in the "Jurassic Park" movies — have reached the Pioneer League championship series in each of the last three years, and four times in all since the franchise was founded in 1994.

And how many league titles do they have to show for it? Precisely the same number of World Series championships the Cubs have won over the last 100 years.

Yep, none.

"I feel bad for the kids and, more importantly, I feel bad for the fans because they've been behind us for 19 years," said Raptors founder, team president and part-owner Dave Baggott, whose team has led the league in home attendance every year since moving into Lindquist Field in 1997.

"Hopefully, they'd get a title for themselves, for the kids and for the city of Ogden.

"They're great fans and they'll be back again next year and, hopefully, we can tighten the shoes and go back out and try it again.

"To just fall short at the end, it's a bitter pill to swallow," he said.

"But that's what's great about baseball. You wake up the next day and do it all over again."

Meanwhile, their in-state rivals down south, the Orem Owlz, have captured four Pioneer League titles since their inception in 2001 — 2004 (as the Provo Angels), '05, '07 and '09 — under longtime manager Tom Kotchman.

Ogden's latest Pioneer League finale failure occurred Friday night, when the Raptors were shelled by the Missoula Osprey, 10-0, in their league championship showdown at Lindquist Field.

The Raptors, who sent the title series to a decisive third game by slapping the Osprey 13-7 on Thursday night, fell behind 5-0 after Friday's first inning and never recovered.

It marked Ogden's third straight losing trip to the league finals, where they have now compiled a dismal 1-8 overall record in their four failed attempts to bring home that elusive championship.

Ogden manager Damon Berryhill knows a little bit about the disappointment of coming so close to winning it all, only to be denied. He spent 10 seasons at the major league level, including the 1989 campaign with the division-winning Cubs' ballclub that lost in the National League playoffs, and the 1991-93 seasons with the Atlanta Braves' ballclub that swept three straight division titles, only to lose in the World Series in 1991-92 and in the National League Championship Series in '93.

"I'm proud of the kids," Berryhill said following Friday's disappointing defeat that denied the Raptors the league title yet again. "… It's just a shame they ended the season this way. It's just a situation where we really didn't compete in the last game and that's tough; that's a tough pill to swallow.

"This is what you play for. You get to the big leagues and you're fortunate to get to championship time and World Series time and I've been there, I've lost the World Series, and it sticks with you your whole life. There's no question about it.

"But it's what the game is all about — getting there and getting an opportunity and trying to come out on top, and we came up a little short," said Berryhill, who hit a game-winning, three-run homer in Game 1 of the 1992 World Series against the Toronto Blue Jays. "They've got nothing to hang their heads about, but you've just got to learn from it and get better."

And, as Cub fans have been vowing for more than a century, the Raptors must "wait till next year" — when they'll once again try to overcome the "Curse of the Creature."