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Summertime, and the players are leaving
Considering the rich tradition of the South Kitsap High School baseball program, its an anomaly that the bulk of varsity players never play an inning on their home soil during the summer baseball season.
Most of SKs varsity players have been driving across the Narrows Bridge to play for select teams in Seattle, Bellevue, Kirkland, Redmond, and other cities.
Its a creature of habit SK junior varsity coach Jim Fairweather hopes to change.
SK currently has a junior and senior legion team, but it runs on user fees and no sponsorship, and the league the teams play in is not in the same class as the Mickey Mantle League that stretches from Bellingham to Olympia.
We are trying to upgrade our Legion program in an attempt to keep our players from going across the pond and playing for other select teams, Fairweather said. It is our goal to have sponsorship to allow us to play a 40-game regular season schedule and we also hope to play in tournaments throughout the state and maybe even a couple outside (the state). Our main goal is to keep our high school team intact and in town to continue the rich tradition of SK baseball.
Fairweather said the reason the local talent goes elsewhere is because of the exposure the players get from colleges and scouts from the big name select programs such as Wilkinson Academy, Poulsbo RV, Chaffey, and Dow.
Fairweather wants the SK players to get as much exposure as possible, but he thinks the players can get recognized just as much if they stay home.
Ive gone over and seen those teams play and theyre good but theyre not that great, Fairweather said. I want to keep my kids around. It only strengthens the program.
There is a big misconception about having to have to play across the water to get noticed, Fairweather said.
Theres a mentality that youve gotta go across the water, Fairweather said.
One of those players is senior-to-be Ryan Marshall.
Marshall, who pitches for Dow during the summer, said he thought about staying home this summer to play.
It would be fun to stay and play with most of my friends, Marshall said. But Ive always played across the water. I didnt know about American Legion until two years ago.
Marshall is one of many players that made the two- to three-hour roundtrip drive as much as six days a week.
Whether it was by ferry or car, there is an added cost for these players to play for their respective select teams.
Marshall said not having to travel all the time for home games would be another benefit to playing in Port Orchard.
The commute is a drag, he said. Weve got games almost every day.
Marshall said the idea is a good one, but said he thinks it will take at least two years to round up enough support from players or parents.
Fairweather said hes holding a meeting for players and parents Aug. 25 at 5 p.m. at Buck Gehring Field.
Fairweather, who has teamed with six fathers of SK players, said one of the biggest goals of putting together new junior and senior legion team is to have coaches with ties to the SK program.
We wish to get a coach who is a former player looking for experience and who doesnt have a kid on the team, Fairweather said. Ive approached one former player and Ive hit up some other guys that are college age.
Were at a grass roots level right now but wed still like to get things rolling, he said.