After stitching together a ragtag team of kids and receiving help from community members to buy equipment, the first Blaine PONY-13 baseball team in several years came together to win 21 out of 32 games over the summer season.
That’s “pretty good for a band of misfits,” said head coach Sean Miller. “That’s how we saw ourselves. We had different levels, different personalities, but the kids all came together and had a good time playing summer baseball.”
Although Blaine Youth Baseball has always been an option for local youth up to sixth grade, the PONY (Protect Our Nation’s
Youth) baseball program for 13- to 14-year-olds hasn’t been operating in Blaine since 2011.
Blaine had its own PONY team in years past, but the team was disbanded due to dwindling participation, and local middle school students had to travel to Ferndale, Lynden or Bellingham if they wanted to play summer ball.
“Baseball has declined some among youth in recent years. It’s a sport that doesn’t give instant gratification – you have to work at it,” Miller said. “Somehow we had enough kids show interest this year, and this group of boys did a great job.”
Miller said the team would not have been possible without generous support from the community.
“Blaine-Birch Bay Park and Recreation District 2 has helped Blaine Youth Baseball every year, and when we asked them for a grant they gave us twice what we asked for. We were able to get new equipment for all the kids,” Miller said.
The new equipment included helmets and bats. Sean Linville, head coach of the Blaine High School varsity baseball team, donated the team’s old uniforms. Scott Knutsen, coach of a local select team, donated some leftover funds from a late sponsorship that his team didn’t end up using.
“It was really a collective effort from the community, and the money and support we received allowed us to make the season happen,” Miller said.
A core group of 12 players stayed with the team all summer, with other players coming and going due to summer vacations. Despite being in its inaugural year, the team competed well against established teams from all over Washington. Blaine’s regular season record earned it a spot in two end-of-season tournaments in Lynden. Blaine went 2–2 in both tournaments.
Miller said the attitude of the players was impressive.
“These boys showed respect for the game and respect for each other. They played for the name on the front of the jersey, not the name on the back,” Miller said.
In the last game of the season, Blaine faced a team from Everett that had drubbed them in an earlier game 11–1. It might have been easy to expect to lose again to a clearly dominant team, but the players from Blaine didn’t lie down. They played an even game, and ended up losing 6–5.
“The other coach said we looked like a completely different baseball team,” Miller said. “In my mind that game really showed the heart and soul of the team.”
Ultimately, youth baseball is not about winning and losing – it’s about learning the lessons of life through the sport that will always be known as America’s pastime.
“I see a lot of showboating now in baseball and other sports, and I don’t agree with it. It’s OK to have fun, and it’s OK to celebrate, but I’m old school. So much of the game is about respect and teamwork,” Miller said.
Miller is hoping to keep Blaine PONY going into the future.
“Hopefully we’ll have enough kids for two teams next year,” he said.