Puyallup: Sports

Emerald Ridge High, Marshall begin first chapter of Ridge Baseball Partnership

There’s a new form of baseball taking shape up on South Hill as Emerald Ridge High baseball coach Larry Marshall is creating something new within the baseball community: Ridge Baseball Partnership.

Instead of creating youth and club leagues that pile up expenses for families and put players and families on constant travel mode, Marshall wanted to create something to ease the burden of families involved in his program while still providing top-notch training for kids from the Jaguars’ partnership with the 10U to 18U program.

“What we’ve seen with players and their families is this focus on playing year-round baseball, traveling to different tournaments all the time, that it puts so many families in a bind and takes away from the time that should be spent together,” Marshall said. “It forces families, we feel, to make too many sacrifices to meet the demand of travel ball. What we wanted to do is keep it small, while focusing on a family-oriented (atmosphere). We’re trying to take the business out of select baseball. Our intent is to bring players along and (to train them) the way it’s supposed to do it. It’s allowing them to become the best at what they’re capable of becoming.”

What we wanted to do is keep it small, while focusing on a family-oriented (atmosphere). We’re trying to take the business out of select baseball.

Emerald Ridge coach Larry Marshall

After a one-year overlap, the Ridge Baseball Club has become a partnership (Ridge Baseball Partnership), as Marshall and his team general managers have finalized the new direction Emerald Ridge is taking baseball on South Hill.

“That’s kind of what my vision is, and Ridge Baseball Club kind of helped get this started,” Marshall added.

As a result of this endeavor, the Puyallup Knights 18U baseball team — that has seen players like former Oregon State catcher and current Cleveland Indians farmhand Logan Ice (72nd overall pick in the MLB draft) come through the program — coached by Marshall has been disbanded, as the coach puts his full efforts into developing the RBP program at Emerald Ridge.

But with witnessing an oversaturation of club baseball putting year-long strains on many players and families, there was a need for the coach to take baseball on the Hill back to a local level.

This focus will put more focus on the high-school level players providing leadership from the top down, not only being the oldest players who will be a part of the program, but by virtue of wearing the school colors on their backs, it will be their responsibly to be the role models of the next generations.

Kids get to work with kids with different ages, and that means the kids from the 13U might come down, and work with the kids in the 10U and 11U. The high schoolers come will come in and work with all the age groups, so that’s a great new direction (for the program).

12U coach Tim Bridgeman

“Kids get to work with kids of different ages, and that means the kids from the 13U might come down and work with the kids in the 10U and 11U,” said Tim Bridgeman, who coaches the RBP 12U baseball team. “The high schoolers come will come in and work with all the age groups, so that’s a great new direction (for the program).”

Learning how to handle the extra responsibility of becoming a teacher has RBP hoping that the exposure to being a role model from the start will make better students of the game, and as an added bonus, stronger players when it comes to game time in high school.

It’s treating everyone who walks on an Emerald Ridge baseball field like an adult — even if it’s eight years early for many.

We want the younger guys in the program to look up to an older kid, it doesn’t matter if they’re in high school or only a few years older than them. We want there to be a connection with each other, like when the younger kids came out to the (ER baseball) games, there was an interest from the high school players with what was going on with their lives.

13U coach Justin O’Keefe

“We’re about building people who can become better team members, better community members, and honestly, better men when they go home to their families,” said Justin O’Keefe, who coaches the 13U team. “We want the younger guys in the program to look up to an older kid; it doesn’t matter if they’re in high school or only a few years older than them. We want there to be a connection with each other, like when the younger kids came out to the (ER baseball) games, there was an interest from the high school players with what was going on with their lives. You would always see them interact before games.”

The hope is to build a stronger community through arguably the top sport in the area. When Marshall first took the job at Emerald Ridge, he and Puyallup coach Marc Wiese and Rogers coach Matt Whitehead sat down and discussed how to make baseball in the area even better.

For Marshall and Ridge Baseball Partnership, this is the first step in cementing that vision.

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