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Posts Tagged ‘baseball’

Central Whidbey’s John Rachal fires the ball back in during a playoff game. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Celebrating during a run to the state tourney are (l to r) Madison McMillan, Allison Nastali, Chloe Marzocca, and Savina Wells. (Photo by Jackie Saia)

Central Whidbey Little League finds itself at a crossroads.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic prevented any games from being played this spring, and the future is hazy.

While CWLL is moving forward with the hope of returning its players to the diamond in 2021, a looming crisis involving a lack of volunteers could become a major issue.

Despite being the smallest league in the region, with 90-100 players, Central Whidbey is required to have the same compliment of board members and volunteers as bigger leagues.

North and South Whidbey, Anacortes, La Conner, Sedro-Woolley, and Burlington have larger parent bases to draw from, while CWLL has had to scramble to fill all of its positions in recent years.

That may get harder very soon, unless a new generation steps up.

“CWLL finds itself in a very challenging position,” said President Gordon McMillan. “Probably not unlike many other non-profits and youth organizations in these unique times.

“And we are facing another huge challenge; the majority of the current board and volunteers have children (or grandchildren in my case!) that are “aging out” of little league in the next year or so,” he added.

“We have very few volunteers that have younger kids playing; with no line of succession, it is clear, in my opinion, CWLL may very well not survive.”

If Central Whidbey is unable to fully staff up, its players might have to try and latch on with North or South Whidbey in the near future, something which could prove difficult – especially if those organizations decide they can’t handle the influx.

“This would be tragic,” McMillan said.

The league president would hate to see Coupeville’s ballfields sit silent.

“CWLL has by far the most beautiful setting,” McMillan said. “I like to call Rhody Park our “Field of Dreams.”

“Island County Parks have been very accommodating and generous in their support of CWLL and it should be duly noted. Rhody belongs to all of us … and the county should be recognized!”

Baseball and softball have a place deep in McMillan’s heart, a big part of the reason he and others have worked so hard to make CWLL the success it is today.

“Little League has touched so many of our lives, the vast majority in a positive manner, I believe,” he said.

“Not every child can play football or basketball, but I venture a guess that every child has picked up a ball, a bat, a glove, and played some sort of baseball/softball/Wiffle ball … neighborhood … sandlot … school PE … or little league.”

For McMillan, little league made an impact on his life, first as a player, then as a coach and official through two generations of his offspring.

“Little League has been a passion of mine since 1956, when I first “made the team” in North Vancouver, BC,” he said.

“I have coached three of my kids and one granddaughter (Madison) and only hope they have, or will have, the same warm and wonderful memories as I have, and look back someday, not remembering the wins and losses, but the fun, camaraderie, and life lessons

“Then, and only then, did we, as coaches, umpires, administrators, concession operators, field maintenance crews, score keepers, spectators, etc. do a good job!”

 

If you’d like to become a volunteer, or have any suggestions for CWLL officials as they navigate the waters ahead, contact McMillan at centralwhidbeyll@gmail.com.

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Chris Smith, always exuding a quiet confidence. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

Jack of all trades, and also a master of all of them.

In his time at Coupeville High School, Chris Smith brought professionalism, superb teaching skills, and enough energy and spirit to light up a town on his own.

Not content to just take one job and be good at that, the father of three stepped into the thick of things, bouncing from season to season, always in uniform and always on point.

When he left us in the spring, Smith was the head varsity baseball coach at CHS, as well as being in charge of both the Wolf JV boys basketball and JV volleyball programs.

While it’s understandable we’ve lost him, in person at least, with the real world pulling him away from Whidbey after the graduation of his youngest child, his memory will live on for a long time.

Over the years, I have worked with a lot of coaches, some great, a few far less so, and Smith easily lands in the top tier.

He brought an energy and excitement to everything he did which carried over to the young women and men he coached, and it genuinely seemed to inspire many of them.

“Get on the bag, son, and stop givin’ me angina!”

There were big wins, and a few tough losses — coaching will always give you both — and Smith reacted, in public at least, as if both were the same.

When his squads pulled off victories, whether by rout or hard-fought comeback, he was quick to spread the love. Both to his players, and to his fellow coaches.

It was his steady hand and calm, but fiery, nature, which centered his team, but rarely does a squad win or lose because of just one person, and Smith knew that.

He was not a screamer, but he could, and did, get his athletes bouncing off the walls when needed.

And, just as often, he was that calm voice in the wilderness, reaching out to comfort and pick someone up at their lowest.

Smith is a people person, and also very adept at reading each individual he came into contact with, and adapting his approach to fit what will work best to maximize their response.

It’s what separates a decent coach from a great one, and I firmly believe he lands in the latter category.

Hanging out with Kory Score on Senior Night.

What is also unique about Smith is his ability to coach both boys and girls sports teams, subtly shifting his approach to fit whatever the situation might be.

In each sport, he brought out the best in his players, helping some of them to soar way past their abilities, and giving others hope.

That hope came because Smith was relentless in preaching a positive mind-set.

He wasn’t rah-rah just to be rah-rah.

Confidence, in himself and in his athletes, flowed out of Smith like water, and he always had a warm word or a grin and a quick joke for everyone around him.

Passing on wisdom to Hawthorne Wolfe.

Sports teams often take on the attitudes of their coaches, which meant his squads played with passion, but also with a quiet confidence.

Several of those Wolf teams had major comebacks, pulling out wins from contests which seemed to be well out of hand in the early going.

Smith didn’t need to scream, or throw clipboards, or wing a chair across the gym, Bobby Knight-style, to get the attention of his players.

He showed his young charges respect, asked for it back, and inspired them to reach great heights in a calm, reassured manner.

And then, without fail, he always sent stats and quotes to the ink-stained wretches in the press, or stopped to talk to us, giving of his time in a way which made you believe that was what mattered most to him in the moment.

Even if he was probably dog-tired and dreaming of dinner and some quiet time.

Smith (with big assistance from their mother Charlotte) gave Coupeville three of the most-talented athletes our town has seen in recent decades — sons CJ and Hunter and daughter Scout.

But then Chris also gave us his time, his expertise, and his conviction, playing a key role in building each of the Wolf programs he helped lead.

We’ll miss him, but wish him the best as he pursues new goals off-Island.

A piece of Smith will always be here in Coupeville, however.

It will show through each time one of his athletes has a big moment, finds something inside themselves they didn’t realize they had, and achieves greatness in life.

And he will also live on through this blog, since, after this, he’ll join his children up at the top of the page under the Legends tab.

The newest member of the Coupeville Sports Hall o’ Fame, he exits the way he entered — a winner every step of the way.

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Oak Harbor grad James Besaw hopes to play baseball in Wisconsin next spring. (Photo courtesy Teresa Besaw)

New state, same game.

Oak Harbor High School grad James Besaw is off to the Midwest to pursue his baseball dreams, while continuing to work on his college education.

The former Wildcat star will be attending the University of Wisconsin-Superior, a liberal arts school where he’ll be pursuing a bachelors in chemistry.

Besaw, who is working as a park aid at Deception Pass State Park this summer, leaves near the end of August to head to a school with some famous alumni.

Arnold Schwarzenegger doesn’t need much of an introduction, but Wisconsin-Superior has also graduated Pixar co-founder David DiFrancesco, several NFL players, and old-school Major League Baseball star Morrie Arnovich.

Arnovich played seven seasons in the bigs, making the All-Star team as a Philadelphia Phillie, before winning a World Series with the 1940 Cincinnati Reds.

Wisconsin-Superior, which plays baseball in the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference, is an NCAA D-III school.

After graduating from OHHS, Besaw played his freshman season at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.

He then moved back to the Northwest, where he suited up this spring for Green River College alongside Coupeville grads CJ Smith, Joey Lippo, and Hunter Smith.

The season ended prematurely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the handful of games he played as a Gator don’t count against Besaw’s college eligibility.

Wisconsin-Superior contacted Besaw, and, after a visit to the campus, he decided it was perfect for the next step in his baseball career.

“I don’t look forward to him being so far away, but I am excited for him to play ball again,” mom Teresa Besaw said. “He was off to such a good start before COVID hit.

“It’s just over a bridge from Duluth, Minnesota, so there will be lots to do where he’ll be at,” she added. “I’m glad to see him getting more opportunity to play ball.

“He’s been loving the game since he was four.”

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Whidbey Island Little League fields will remain quiet.

North Whidbey Little League announced Wednesday it was cancelling its fall ball season due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

That follows on the heels of South Whidbey Little League cancelling its Summer Sandlot series.

Both moves come after Island County Commissioners voted to “restrict outdoor recreation events including sports in Island County to no more than 10 participants.”

That ruling went into effect July 28.

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Zane Oldenstadt rumbles down low in the paint. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Oldenstadt and William Davidson pause for a photo op during track season. (Morgan White photo)

Zane Oldenstadt listens to his mom, and that may pay off as the world deals with a pandemic.

As Coupeville students prepare for a new school year, without knowing for sure how it will play out in the age of coronavirus, incoming freshmen have high hopes in an unsettled world.

For Oldenstadt, who plans to be a three-sport athlete at CHS, it’s a perfect time to reflect on words of wisdom from mom Michelle Glass.

“My mom’s had a huge impact in showing me how the only way things get done is through perseverance and work,” Oldenstadt said.

Whether his high school days start off in a classroom or at home in front of a computer, the outgoing 9th grader-to-be wants to make an impact in everything he does.

Oldenstadt is “very interested in marine biology, and I plan to go to college for it,” while in the arena he hopes to play football, basketball, and baseball, in whatever order the WIAA and CHS allow him to.

Being a three-sport athlete is something which comes naturally, as he played soccer and basketball, then wrapped up the school year competing in track and field during his middle school days.

He also played little league baseball.

While he enjoyed all of his sports, Oldenstadt felt most at home on the hardwood.

“Basketball, I have fun getting out there and battling on the court,” he said. “It’s a sport I never tire of, and I’m always ready to go and give it my all.”

As he makes the transition from CMS to CHS, Oldenstadt already has the height and strength to set him apart from other athletes his own age.

But he also realizes he needs to add other components to his game if he wants to be successful at a higher level.

“I think my athleticism at my size really stands out,” Oldenstadt said. “But I’d still like to work on overall quickness.

“My goal in high school sports is to better myself and the teams I play on through hard work and commitment.”

When he’s not playing sports, Oldenstadt enjoys listening to music.

In an uncertain world, though, athletic activity is key to his happiness.

“Sports helps me cope with stress or anything else that’s bothering me,” he said. “It’s nice just to go and focus all your energy on trying to win something.”

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