The Olympic Crosscutters traveled south earlier this month for a three-game set against a team of players from Central Valley.
The Cutters dropped two of the three games in Corvallis, Ore., falling 7-3 and 14-6 in a July 2 evening doubleheader and rallying for a 13-7 win in the series finale on July 3.
But this trip was more about the future and the possibilities for post-secondary play at the college level.
The Crosscutters were able to take an up-close tour of the facilities of the Oregon State University baseball program.
Through a relationship with former Beavers standout Mitch Canham, Olympic manager John Qualls was able to set up a peek behind the curtain of a Pac-12 team.
Canham was a member of Oregon State’s back-to-back College World Series championship teams in 2006-2007 and now manages the Seattle Mariners minor league affiliate Clinton LumberKings in the short-season Midwest League.
“Mitch connected us with assistant coach Andy Jenkins and he put me in touch with Kavin Keyes.”
Keyes is a graduate assistant with the team and was a member of Oregon State’s 2013 College World Series team and a former Mariners draft pick.
“He led a great tour of the facility,” Qualls said. “We were able to see videos of the championship teams, hang out in the locker room and walk around the field. And we gained a lot of knowledge about the hard work and dedication you put in today being a big part of your future success.”
Qualls has been working to build relationships with coaches at the two-year and four-year levels in an effort to get more attention to North Olympic Peninsula athletes.
“Proper connections really pay off,” Qualls said. “We don’t have any less talent on the peninsula, we just have to work a little smarter to achieve these long-term goals like playing at the next level.”
Qualls felt the trip served a dual-purpose: attention from a high-achieving program and to bond as a team in advance of this week’s 64-team GSL College Showcase Tournament in Centralia.
“The exposure to a top program in the country has served the purpose of ‘planting a seed’ for future opportunities for our peninsula athletes,” Qualls said.
“We were able to obtain some crucial information regarding recruitment standards and specific avenues for development and growth. And we needed this road trip for growth as a team and as individuals. It’s always challenging to travel long distances and face adversity through heat and exhaustion. We played a great Corvallis team and competed very well. The boys were faced with a lot of learning opportunities and they came out on the other side with a higher IQ for the game.”
Qualls said his team was intimidated when they played in the GSL Showcase last season.
The tournament brings together numerous scouts from all levels of collegiate baseball to watch hundreds of players compete.
“Our kids had never seen that many college coaches and scouts wearing their school colors and walking around with radar guns,” Qualls said.
“And we froze up a little bit, I could tell we were intimidated. I spent a big part of this year getting them ready for this experience, so when they get in front of a coach they can look them in the eye, have a conversation and be prepared for what’s to come.”
Qualls said he had his players write letters to the programs they are interested in attending as a way to introduce themselves.
“We only had one player do that last year, Nigel Christian, and it really helped him establish a relationship. And he’ll be going to Centralia College this fall.
“All the kids this year are educated, more knowledgeable and will be able to ask questions and try to establish a connection with these programs.”
District tourney set
The Crosscutters play at a district tournament at Civic Field in Port Angeles July 15-17, with winners advancing the American Legion AA state oturnament in Burlington and Mount Vernon, July 23-28.
Michael Carman is a sports reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. He can be contacted at 360-417-3525 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.