A couple of locals played in the Grand Forks baseball tournament over the Fourth of July weekend in Grand Forks, Canada.
Mark Sluys, a 2014 Gig Harbor High graduate, and Shane Hanon, a 2014 Peninsula High School graduate, suited up to play in the 34th year of the tournament’s existence. Hanon played for the North Sound Emeralds, located out of Edmonds, while Sluys suited up for the Thurston County Senators, located out of Olympia.
Sluys knew plenty of baseball would be in store during the weeklong event, but he was a bit surprised to find out his team would have unique accommodations: camping at an RV park instead of staying in a hotel.
“I guess it was a way to save a little money,” Sluys said. “It was a little weird; I haven’t done much camping in my life. But we messed around and had fun.”
While they might not have had a four-star hotel, the players were treated like stars once they got to the field.
“You get approached by a lot of little kids and older people in the city, just the citizens in general,” said Sluys, who plays catcher at Brown University. “They don’t have baseball in British Columbia, so we’re like the pros to them. It was a neat atmosphere.”
Sluys even signed some autographs for some kids.
“I’ll try to make it worth something someday — hopefully the kids can be patient,” Sluys said with a laugh.
Being embraced by the community was a fun experience for Sluys.
“It kind of surprised us,” he said. “You’re just up there playing summer ball, getting reps, getting ABs. We look at it as our spring training, time for us to get better. They look at it as a huge deal to their city.”
Sluys went 3 for 8 for the tournament and drew a couple of walks. While he plays catcher at Brown, Sluys got a chance to play some third base during the tournament.
“It was an opportunity to play another position,” Sluys said. “That was fun. I thought we played well as a team. It was a good week for our team.”
During his freshman year of college, Sluys got valuable playing time and hopes to build on it for next season. Despite suffering a broken thumb before the first game that caused him to miss the first third of the season, Sluys was able to bounce back and contribute.
“I had never been hurt in a season like that,” he said. “It was different just not being able to down anything to help your team in any aspect on the field. That was a challenge.”
He bounced back around the team’s spring break trip.
“I probably played about 40 to 50 percent of the time,” Sluys said. “I hit just under .300, felt comfortable. It was just a good experience. It was a way to get some time under my belt and hopefully I can make a big contribution and be a starter this coming year.”
Hanon, who plays college ball at Central Arizona, said he enjoyed playing against quality competition at the Grand Forks tournament.
“Grand Forks was pretty fun,” Hanon said. “It was really cool to hit off some ex-MLB guys, farm-system guys and have some success.”
Hanon’s team never got matched up against Sluys’ team, much to Hanon’s disappointment.
“I didn’t get to play against Mark, but I wish I did,” he said. “I was giving him crap the whole time.”
Playing in front of passionate fans in Grand Forks was a worthwhile experience, Hanon agreed.
“We got treated like stars there,” he said. “It’s the big tournament that they’ve waited for. They have a nice field and they just treat everyone really well. That was really cool.”