The Wollochet American Legion baseball team recently qualified for the state championship tournament in Spokane after a strong season.
The 16U team plays in the north division of Area Two of the American Legion League, competing against teams from Olympia, North Thurston, Capital and Graham-Kapowsin.
The Wollochet club draws from Gig Harbor High Scool, Peninsula High, Charles Wright and other local schools.
“The team chemistry (is special),” said coach Jeff Milbourn. “They work really well together. I think a tradition of the team is to keep guys together so that team chemistry continues to grow. I think a lot of these kids have a little chip on their shoulder, some of them have tried out for other teams but haven’t made it. I feel like they have something to prove. Most of them play on their high school teams.”
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The group of players may not have made the most prestigious select teams in the area, but they’re good baseball players with solid work ethics.
“Baseball in this area is very competitive,” Milbourn said. “It’s not that they’re bad players. I like that, I like the fact that not all of them are starters, so when they get their chance, they play hard and try to prove themselves.”
The Gig Harbor team lost its first two games in the state tournament, which started Friday. But the Wollochet Club bounced back with a 4-3 win over University in the tournament’s final day. Milbourn is looking at the bigger picture and trying to grow the club, instead of focusing too much on the results at the tournament.
“I want to be competitive; I’m hoping to draw some attention to the club,” Milbourn said. “I don’t want to say that we aren’t taken seriously but that’s kind of how it feels. We kind of feel like an afterthought in the community. Legion League has a perception of not being a competitive league. In some parts of the state, it’s very competitive. I’m just trying to provide another option for these guys who maybe are not getting a lot of playing time with these select teams. I want to prove we’re a legitimate contender.”
The Wollochet Baseball Club is hosting open tryouts from 5 to 7 p.m. Aug. 2 at the Gig Harbor High School baseball field for 14- to 18-year-old baseball players, and from 5 to 7 p.m. Aug. 4 for 12- to 13-year-olds. The team will play a full American Legion schedule in 2017 and will be coached by high school coaches from both Peninsula and Gig Harbor high schools. This will be the eighth year the club will be playing Legion ball. Visit wollochetbaseballclub.com to register.
“We’re hoping that making it to state this year will bring more attention to the club, draw some more interest and keep some of these Gig Harbor kids in town,” Milbourn said. “A lot of kids leave to go to Federal Way, Puyallup, Tacoma, etc. to play. We’re trying to rebuild it and provide another option.”
The club is sponsored by the Greater Gig Harbor Post 236 of The American Legion. The Legion is a veterans service organization, committed to mentoring youth and sponsorship of wholesome programs in local communities, advocating patriotism and honor, promoting strong national security and continued devotion to its fellow service members and veterans.