SPORTS: Wilder Baseball set to start 2011 season

PORT ANGELES — Wilder Baseball, an elite Senior Babe Ruth program for players ages 16-18, kicks off its 33rd season today with a team meeting.

Prospective players should plan on attending today’s activity, manager Rob Merritt said.

The meeting starts promptly at 6 p.m. in the south locker room at Civic Field in Port Angeles.

Players whose high school teams are still involved in the state baseball playoffs — at this point only Chimacum — should attend the meeting but will not be allowed to practice.

Wilder Auto Center continues as the team’s lead sponsor, supported by several other area businesses.

The program draws baseball players from all over the North Olympic and Kitsap peninsulas.

Players ages 16 to 18 who are interested in challenging for a Wilder Baseball roster spot should plan on attending today’s meeting and workout.

Merritt starts his fifth year as manager of the program. Wilder alum Mike Politika will return as a full-time coach while former players Scott Napiontek, J.R. Flores and Caleb Grubb will be coaching their third season with the team.

Former collegiate standout and Wilder alum Chad Wagner will be the full-time pitching coach while former Wilder alum Zach Moore will be coaching in his first season.

Wilder Baseball has won nine state championships, including five of the past 10 titles.

The team will play a demanding nonleague schedule against top teams from around the Northwest.

The schedule will include participation in the Post 9 Showcase Classic in Salem, Ore., and the D’Ambrosia Realtors Diamond Classic in Clackamas, Ore.

Wilder also will host its own 13th annual Dick Brown Memorial Wilder Firecracker Classic at Civic Field during the first weekend in July.

The Firecracker Tournament will feature eight to 10 teams that will play during the course of the four-day weekend.

Wilder also will be hosting the Babe Ruth Pacific Northwest Regional tournament from July 20 to July 24.

There will be 10 teams at the regionals, including Montana, Wyoming, British Columbia, Idaho, South Washington, North Washington, South Oregon, North Oregon and Calgary, Canada.

The winner moves on to the Senior Babe Ruth World Series at a location to be determined.

Wilder begins play Saturday starting at 4 p.m. at Civic Field against the Toyota Baseball Club.

The four-game series wraps up on Sunday.

“We’re excited for the season to get under way,” Merritt said.

“In addition to the Port Angeles kids, we consistently have key contributions from players who join us from other nearby high schools.

“In addition to helping the program compete, it is extremely rewarding to watch as new friendships and relationships are developed throughout the season.

“Provided we can develop some pitching depth, we believe that with hard work we can continue our tradition of being a highly competitive ball club.”

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