Player development key to Babe Ruth program

It is not often a coach is willing to sacrifice wins for the development of all his players, but that is the approach of Oak Harbor Babe Ruth baseball coach Bill Young.

Young said the goal of the program for 13- and 14-year-olds is to get players “ready for the next level, for high-school baseball.”

He added, “We are trying to teach them the fundamentals of the game.”

During the regular season, Young strives to give all his players equal innings, thus giving them an equal opportunity to develop. This may result in more losses than if he played his best players most of the time, but the gains come down the line when the players move to the high school program and give the Wildcats more depth.

Early in the season he also gives everyone the opportunity to pitch before settling on five or six regulars.

In addition, he believes “every kid should play three positions, minimum, not counting pitcher.” This allows the players to be more well-rounded and to gain a deeper understanding of the game.

Young said, “They may not get a lot of innings in each position, but they will play them in practice.”

The Oak Harbor Babe Ruth program, which began over 20 years ago to give local youth a chance to play competitive baseball against neighboring cities’ best players, returned this year after a one-year absence. Not enough players tried out last spring to form a team in 2010.

Young said some of his players may have been 14 years old when this season started, but they were 13-year-olds in experience because of the missed season. “They just weren’t developed,” he said.

He is pleased with their growth this season as they head to the playoffs.

Oak Harbor opens district tournament play at Burlington Monday, June 27, at 6 p.m.

Young said Burlington is considered the top team, and it defeated Oak Harbor 14-2 and 11-1 early in the season. Young said his club will be more competitive this time around: “We are a whole different team now.”

Ferndale and Anacortes round out the tournament field. Oak Harbor split with both during the regular season.

The 14-year-olds on the Oak Harbor team are Clay Doughty, Brandon Bailey, Daniel Wolfe, Alex Leech, C.J. Meders, Dustin Costin and Jozef Mendoza. The 13s include Brent Mertins, Ben Fikse, Tyler Snavely, Christian Bertram, Kellan Mebane and Preston Rankin.

Hans Mertins is the assistant coach.

Oak Harbor finished the regular season Thursday, June 23, with a 9-7 win over the Skagit Valley Renegades at Clover Valley Park. That set Oak Harbor’s records at 9-9 in league and 10-15 overall.

Down 2-0, Oak Harbor scored six runs in the fourth on eight hits.

Mertins started the rally with a single, Bailey followed with a walk and Wolfe doubled in a run. After an out, Mebane added a pinch-hit single. A double by Meders and singles from Snavely, Costin, Rankin and Doughty completed the scoring.

Skagit trimmed the lead to 6-4, then Oak Harbor tacked on three runs in the sixth.

Leech opened with a single, Meders hit his second double, Snavely walked, Costin laid down a bunt for a hit, Doughty walked and Mertins singled.

Doughty, Mertins, Meders and Costin each finished with two hits. Mertins picked up the pitching win.

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