Sports

Legion program looks to keep players local

POULSBO — The Kitsap Americans baseball team should have some familiar faces on it. That’s promising for head coach Jon O’Connor, who will lead the team in its second season.

“They all get along with one another … really coachable,” O’Connor said. “They want to learn the game, they want to play the game, they buy into how we teach it.

“I couldn’t ask for a better group of kids.”

Of the 14 registered for the team, 11 are from either the North Kitsap High School junior varsity or varsity baseball program. One is from Kingston High School. And two are from Chimacum.

The Kitsap Americans are part of American Legion Baseball leagues.

For O’Connor, one of the main goals of the program is to keep those participating in high school baseball together during the offseason, instead splitting off to play in other programs around the county. That way, when high school baseball starts up again, it could potentially be a more cohesive group.

The spring season for high school baseball is short, about 20 games unless a team makes it to the postseason. It’s not enough, O’Connor said. Right now, the Americans are scheduled for more than 20 days of baseball in the summer, including at least three tournaments before the playoffs at the end of July.

Other teams in the league are Central Kitsap, Foss, Gig Harbor, Klahowya, Mount Tahoma, Olympic, and Wilson.

Both North Kitsap and Kingston high school players are preparing for Regionals Saturday. A good thing for the high school baseball programs and the summer program led by O’Connor — those at Regionals will see what it takes to make it.

Right now, the Americans are scheduled to play Sumner May 22. That will change if the high school teams make it through Regionals and move on to State. Rescheduling the teams’ first game wouldn’t bother O’Connor, who is the pitching coach for the North Kitsap baseball team.

“I would love to cancel these games because NKHS is going to State,” he said.

O’Connor resurrected the summer program last year. Hailing from Spokane, where Legion baseball teams are the norm, he wants to help build the league in Kitsap. The Americans are sponsored by Port Madison Enterprises and the Poulsbo American Legion post.

O’Connor said he will have plenty of talent on the team, including utility players and a deep pitching staff. The Americans will call the NKHS baseball field home.

 

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