Sports

Kitsap baseball growing strong

The BlueJackets will have new competition in instructional play.

If growth is a positive sign, then the West Coast Collegiate Baseball League is doing just fine.

The WCCBL, which includes the Kitsap BlueJackets, will add Moses Lake to its league roster this coming season, bringing the WCCBL to eight teams.

Kitsap manager Matt Acker and co-owner Rick Smith both said the expansion is the most positive sign that could be bestowed on the league.

“I think it’s great,” Acker said. “It’s been a great league and it’s nice to have more teams in it.”

The WCCBL, which celebrated its inaugural season last summer, now includes Kitsap, Moses Lake, Aloha (Oregon), Wenatchee, Bellingham, Bend (Oregon), Spokane and Kelowna (British Columbia).

“It’s good for college baseball in the Northwest,” Acker said. “It’s good for baseball in general in the Northwest.”

Acker said because the WCCBL is not easy to get into, it makes a clear statement about the commitment of the Moses Lake Pirates, led by husband-and-wife owners Brent and Amy Kirwan.

“They don’t make it very easy to be a part of this league,” Acker said. “People are not going to do things at half effort when they come into the league. It’s great.”

Smith said the league gave Moses Lake up to two years to get everything ready in terms of community support, finances and making necessary player arrangements. But the Pirates were a step ahead, joining the league this season.

The Moses Lake expansion was unanimously approved at the WCCBL’s Dec. 5 meeting. Brent Kirwan said he’s excited to be a part of the league.

“My family feels very blessed to be finally fulfilling this dream,” he said. “We’ve been working for years to bring the highest caliber of baseball to Moses Lake, and it was great to get the call that we were approved.”

In addition to improving the quality of play in the league and opening more roster spots for WCCBL hopefuls, Acker said players in the league, particularly those from the east coast, will get an even better experience than they did a year ago.

“There’s a lot those kids are going to see,” he said, citing the varying geographies the league encompasses. “They’ll go from super hot to some major scenery, like up in Kelwona. Some of the kids are going to be flattened by some of the places we play.”

To a degree, the BlueJackets have expanded themselves as well.

Acker said the Tacoma “feeder” team that had been talked about is ready, save for the roster.

The Tacoma Cardinals will compete with WCCBL teams, Portland City League teams and Pacific International League teams while acting as a feeder team for the Kitsap club. Players will get the opportunity through performance to advance to the parent Kitsap club.

The PIL has also expanded this offseason, growing to seven teams.

Ten roster spots are filled for the Cardinals, but added the rest will be filled later in January.

“We had a lot of response,” Acker said. “It’s great. It’s great for the Kitsap BlueJackets and it’s great for community collegiate baseball, especially for area and community colleges. When the kids see the scheduled competition, they’re going to be very excited.”

The club also gives area players a look at the next level, taking on the teams they’d compete with regularly if they made it to the BlueJackets. Acker has said the team will mostly be composed of Green River and Olympic Community College players.

The BlueJackets open their second season June 8 with a home contest against the new feeder team, Tacoma, at the Kitsap Fairgrounds ball fields.

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