An All-Star Baseball Salute Exciting times ahead for Little League baseball on Bainbridge.
June 9, 2008 · Updated 7:50 PM
"The Mini-Mariners may meet their maxi-size counterparts Sept. 19.That's if plans in development for the Bainbridge Island Little League All-Stars to be honored before the Seattle Mariners' Sept. 19 game against the Anaheim Angels come to fruition. Tentative plans, according to island league board member Stephen Smith, call for the Bainbridge team to be honored along with Kirkland's 11-and-12-year-old girls' softball team, which also made it to their national tournament. The boys will take part in batting practice at Safeco Field, may receive individual introductions over the public-address system, and may have one member selected to throw out a first pitch. Team members and coaches will get a block of right-field seats, and family members may able to join the group for tickets at a discounted price, Smith said. About 60 seats in all will be available. The official event will be the team's second appearance at Safeco, however. Karen Moyer, wife of Mariner pitcher Jamie Moyer, recently contacted local Little League officials and offered their entire luxury suite behind home plate at Safeco Field for Bainbridge's players through the couple's charitable Moyer Foundation, several league members reported. Work is under way on getting more tickets together for family members of the players and on working through the details of publicly recognizing the fifth-best Little League team in the United States before their big-league idols at the sold-out game. At this point, no official ceremony is planned, but that, like all else, is subject to change, Smith said. * * * * *When a 1998 squad of Bainbridge 9- and 10-year-old All-Stars won the Washington state championship - a first in the island's 40-plus years in Little League - parents and league officials looked for a way to immortalize the momentum of a magnificent moment. Led by landscaper and Bainbridge native Ollie Pedersen and his family, many of the parents of the players on that team spent rain-slogged Saturday mornings the following fall and winter helping dig ditches and install a state-of-the-art drainage system under the surface of the Majors field at Rotary Park. That team was managed by Don French. This year, to help immortalize his 2001 All-Stars and their wildly improbable ride to the Little League World Series, French has another eye-to-the-future-of-island-baseball plan in mind. He'd like to to organize a delegation to raise money and negotiate with the Nakata family to purchase some or all of the approximately 15 acres the clan owns across Weaver Road from Rotary Park. Plans for ball fields at the south end of Gazzam Lake Park were shelved indefinitely. Attempts to site ball fields on the 17 acres of former Kitsap County gravel pit at the end of Lofgren Road haven't made much progress in the past few years. And talk about playing ball on part of the unused 40-acre portion of the Bainbridge Landfill haven't gotten too far, either. As Bainbridge races toward build-out in a few decades, French sees the Nakata property as an ideal way to plan for the island's growing baseball and softball needs. I think it's our best shot at giving our kids the space they're going to need, French said. * * * * *Bainbridge players and their parents experienced the agony of defeat all over again as they watched Apopka, Fla.'s heartbreaking 2-1 loss to Japan in the Sunday championship game of the World Series. Here's an account of the immediate aftermath, from the pages of the Orlando Sentinel newspaper, of how Apopka lost after being ahead 1-0 with two outs in the sixth and final inning: When the final run crossed the plate, Apopka catcher Will Blankenship lay face down banging his hand against the ground, gloves were angrily strewn everywhere and third baseman Zach Zwieg's eyes were filled with tears as he buried his face in his hat.'' What if that had been Bainbridge's fate? Would that have been worth becoming U.S. champions? Bainbridge players and parents had mixed feelings. I think that to lose a heartbreaker like Apopka is much worse than what happened to us - the prize was just too close, the dream within reach, and so the fall from a much greater height,'' said Lynn Oliver, mother of Bainbridge shortstop Rudy Sharar. But Rudy himself had a different perspective, both his parents say. He thinks that playing further is worth the risk and that being the U.S. champ would take the sting out of losing the world championship game, his mother reported. He says 'you lost by one run and two errors, you were that close, but to win the U.S. championship game means you are the best out of zillions... There are many times more teams in the U.S. than in the world....' Rudy's father, Sam Sharar, believes that Bainbridge's kid-friendly coaches - Dick Henshaw, Greg Stevenson and French - would have helped the players constructively carry off such a crushing blow. Don and Dick and Greg would've reoriented them to what they accomplished, where they came from and where they ended up, and I feel the kids would've shaken it off fairly quickly, he said. * * * * *For the record, here's how Apopka Manager Bob Brewer consoled his tear-streamed troops, according to the Sentinel: We're the No. 1 team in the country, and we're bringing that home to Apopka, Brewer said. We've got nothing to be ashamed of. It ain't so bad being No. 2 in the world.I heard some of our guys saying, 'It was my fault we lost,' and that made me very angry. I explained to them that no one individual lost that game. We lost that game. We had opportunities to hit the ball, and we did not. We had opportunities to make plays, and we did not.The island perspective: Nash Hensen, Bainbridge's pitcher and centerfielder, put it best when he said - after Bainbridge lost to Apopka, 2-0, in Series play Aug. 19 - that losing that game was good for him and his teammates, because it tells us exactly what we have to do to get up for the next game.'' For that alone, Nash might be nominated for Little League board president at the group's Sept. 5 meeting. "