Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News Wilder’s Curan Bradley pitches during a July 2016 game at Port Angeles Civic Field.

Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News Wilder’s Curan Bradley pitches during a July 2016 game at Port Angeles Civic Field.

BASEBALL: Wilder adding junior team, new coaches for 2017

By Mike Carman

Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — Wilder Baseball, a tradition-rich high-school age baseball program for North Olympic Peninsula players, will host tryouts on Saturday and again Jan. 28 for its upcoming summer season.

The tryouts will be held in the Port Angeles High School auxiliary gym from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. each day. Players are highly encouraged to make both sessions, but it is not required. Prospects should come prepared to play baseball and wear gym shoes, not cleats. Any kid born prior to May 1, 2002, is eligible to play.

Anyone unable to attend a tryout session should email [email protected]

Wilder will field two independent traveling teams in 2017, an 18U Senior squad managed by first-year Port Angeles High School head coach Karl Myers, and a 16U Junior team headed up by former Wilder manager and player Rob Merritt.

Mike Politika, who has managed Wilder the past three seasons, is now serving as the organization’s general manager and will have an on-field presence as an assistant coach.

“We have the kids,” Politika said when asked why Wilder would field two teams.

“We have some younger kids that want to play. Over the last four or five years the 15U junior Babe Ruth summer team has not developed for various reasons, so we want to provide a competitive venue for that group and have a good season of summer baseball.”

Andrew Olson, a former pitcher at Tacoma Community College and Seattle University and current volunteer assistant with Tacoma, also will be an assistant coach.

Myers, who pitched at Gonzaga, and Olson were teammates on the West Coast League’s Bellingham Bells.

Myers has served as an assistant coach for the Port Angeles High School program for the past two seasons. He also was a Wilder assistant last summer.

The two teams will begin practicing sometime in May. The senior team will start soon after the Port Angeles varsity season concludes, while the junior team will likely begin play a little sooner.

Myers said being the head man for both the Port Angeles varsity and the Wilder Senior team should help with player development.

“There has to be a degree of separation being the high school coach, but it allows kids to hear a consistent message,” Myers said.

“We’ve been working with Cal Ripken [Baseball] and [Olympic] Junior Babe Ruth to develop a plan for the kids to be taught the same things at every level and allow for the kids to grow as players.”

Politika agreed.

“I think it will create a seamless, top-down philosophy from varsity down to Junior Babe Ruth and on down to the lower levels,” he said.

He did add that the squad is open to players from all across the North Olympic Peninsula. Last year the team had member from Forks and Sequim, in addition to Port Angeles. Port Townsend and Chimacum players also have played for Wilder in the past.

Wilder Senior is expected to play about 45 games this summer with around 20 at Civic Field, while the Juniors will play around 35, with 10 or 12 home games.

In a change, Wilder won’t compete in Senior Babe Ruth postseason play.

“It gives us more flexibility in how we schedule our season,” Politika said.

“It allows us to go to some very competitive events and give these kids some exposure they might not get with the Senior Babe Ruth path.”

Wilder will host its traditional Firecracker Classic at Civic Field in early July, and also will play in a college showcase tournament in Tacoma and another in Clackamas, Oregon later that month.

Wilder will share a field with the first-year Port Angeles Lefties West Coast League team.

The youth program is building a relationship with the WCL franchise.

“With the Lefties coming into town, we want to give the team some exposure to that league,” Myers said.

“So we have a trip to Bellingham to play a game and then watch the Bells play.

“We have a trip to Wenatchee where we will play the Apple packers, a solid 19U club, while the Lefties play the AppleSox.”

Myers, who also played for the league’s Kelowna Falcons as well as the Bells, said this will only benefit Wilder players.

“Players who are putting in the time and effort to play summer baseball probably have at least some aspiration to play college ball and the WCL is the next logical step,” he said.

“So we are gearing it toward getting them a look at that level. We’ll meet their guys, work out with them and the players can learn from that.”

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