An organization is making sure youth baseball continues to flourish in Oak Harbor.
The Oak Harbor Baseball Association runs traveling baseball teams for kids ages 8 to 18. Tryouts for the upcoming season will take place in August and September.
The association has grown from one team to three; the goal for next year is to have four.
“We’ve been growing little by little,” said Brad Gisvold, who is the president of the association. “They’re slowly realizing what they can get from our program versus other programs, so we’re starting to get more kids, year by year.”
Coaches and board members of the association are all volunteers and are driven by passion and a love for baseball.
“Baseball was such a huge thing for us when we were growing up and youth baseball in the city has kind of gone downhill,” said Andrew Bighouse, who is the secretary on the association’s board and head coach for one of the teams.
Along with providing athletic opportunities to young kids, the association helps feed the Oak Harbor High School baseball team.
“We give kids a more competitive style of baseball, to get them ready for that next level,” Bighouse said.
Any player from Skagit or Island County is welcome to try out, regardless of experience or gender.
“As much as we preach competitive baseball, we try to bring baseball to anybody,” Bighouse said. “So the kid doesn’t have to be a five-year seasoned vet who’s really good at baseball. We try to keep as many kids as we possibly can.”
Bighouse said organizers are not only trying to make kids into better baseball players and athletes, but also into better humans.
“We’re really big on culture,” he said.
This year, the association is trying to get the teams picked earlier to have practice throughout the winter.
“A lot of the programs we compete against play year round,” Bighouse said. “So we’re trying to get our kids ready to go sooner rather than later.”
The teams do a lot of traveling for games and tournaments to places like Portland, Eastern Washington, Tacoma and Olympia. They also play more local teams throughout the week. Most of the tournaments take place on weekends.
“It’s a commitment, 100%,” Bighouse said. “Not only for the kids but for the parents.”
The teams usually practice four days a week for a couple hours and have one or two games a week if there is no weekend tournament. Generally, tournaments don’t start until May.
The association also has a “winter workout” program two to three days a week during the off season. Winter workouts are open to everyone, not just baseball players. The association has access to gyms so the kids can exercise indoors when it’s cold outside. They will do anything from running and stretching to hitting and throwing.
“Just to keep the kids in shape and moving and grooving,” Gisvold said.
Coaches encourage anyone who is interested to try out, even if they have not played before.
“We want to get as many kids as possible in front of us and hopefully get them into baseball,” Gisvold said.
Tryouts will take place at the Oak Harbor High School baseball field from 5:30-7:30 p.m. on Aug 16 and 18, 5:30-7:30 p.m. on Aug. 23 and 25 and 5:30-7:30 p.m. on Sep. 6 and 8.