Heading into the season, one of the goals for the Oak Harbor Babe Ruth baseball team was to qualify for the state tournament. Next week it will see if it can complete that quest.
Oak Harbor begins district tournament play against Friday Harbor at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 25, at Burlington-Edison High School. Oak Harbor will need to finish in the top two at the five-team district to earn a berth in the state tournament in Port Angeles.
Oak Harbor is playing in the 14-year-old division, though half of its team is comprised of 13-year-olds. Also, it enters district play with only 10 players because of injury, transfers and other obligations.
But the season isn’t all about a trip to state, according to coach Bill Young. The primary goal is to “prepare every player for the next level in baseball and in life,” he said.
In doing so, Young requires each player to man at least three positions during the season and gives everyone a chance to pitch.
Growth can be slow at times and this season has been “a roller coaster with regard to performance and attitude,” he said.
He is especially pleased with his youngest players who are “doing well for the most part” with increased arm strength and power at the plate.
However, “old bad habits die hard,” he added. “Correcting improper throwing mechanics is a frequent problem, and is accentuated on the big diamond.”
He added, “Understanding the signals and executing seems to be a constant problem in spite of frequent emphasis. For lack of players initially (conflicts with basketball, wrestling, JV baseball), we got off to a very slow start on situational awareness training which is complicating play now.”
Young has worked with the Babe Ruth program for 11 years after nine with North Whidbey Little League. Things are changing in the youth baseball world, he said, and if Oak Harbor wants to field a quality high school team, it needs to keep pace.
OHHS has produced some quality players recently (including current college players Yale Rosen, Jay Stout, Josh Evans and David Tillotson), he said, but it is losing ground.
“My perception is that the Oak Harbor community is increasingly moving toward individual over team as a matter of emphasis. In reality, when the team does well, then everyone does well as we learned from our state champion football team and subsequent undefeated regular season football team.”
He noted that a recent Babe Ruth opponent from Seattle charges over $1,000 to play and has three paid coaches. Young said, “Most have no concept of the costs involved in fielding a quality team and program, not only in time and money, but in personal sacrifice.”
Young and assistants Jim Hannahan and Dominique Herring are volunteers.
He also pointed out that Oak Harbor, unlike some other communities, does not require its youth league coaches to attend training to ensure consistency of techniques taught.
Regardless, Young said, baseball is a great game: “The memories of a game-saving catch or throw, stealing home, or of a grand slam home run to win a tournament, not to mention graduation from college or military academy, are rewards beyond description and keep us coming back for more.”
Now the 2013 Oak Harbor Babe Ruth team hopes to make its own memorable highlights on the way to the state tournament.
Oak Harbor 2013 Babe Ruth Team: Front row, left to right: Dylan Bailey, Chris Levy, Dominic Stevens, Dillan Murphy, Paul Southerland, Cory Roberts.
Back row, left to right: Trent Benson, Kenneth Morrow, Dominic Jones, Jordan Davenport, Paul Spence, Robert Herring, Austin Hauter. (Photo courtesy of Bill Young.)