Sports

Carrying the legacy

When it comes to baseball and softball in Silverdale, the name Baumgartner is synonymous with the athletic diamond.

Central Kitsap senior shortstop Kristi Baumgartner is the latest member of the family tree to carry the tradition.

“Basically, I’ve been around it my whole life,” she said. “I have a ton of aunts and uncles that all played on a slow-pitch team. I have 12 cousins and we all played on the open fields while (my aunts and uncles played).”

The family baton was passed from Kara Baumgartner, a 2001 Olympic graduate who served as the team’s catcher, to her cousin, Kristi.

Baumgartner missed playing her cousin by a year, but now has an opportunity to watch another cousin — Olympic junior Shea Baumgartner, a standout second baseman on the Trojans’ baseball team. In a 14-10 win against CK, Shea Baumgartner went 5-for-5 with three runs, two home runs and 8 RBI on April 21.

“He plays for the Kitsap Gators and I’ve watched him play,” said Baumgartner, referring to the local summer-league baseball team. “People compare me to him and it’s almost not fair. He’s so good he amazes me.”

With the family aspect overriding the rivalry between the Silverdale schools, perhaps it’s no surprise where the player Baumgartner most respects attends school.

“There’s one player I really admire — Lauren Haas,” said Baumgartner, referring to the Olympic pitcher. “Her work ethic is amazing. She was out there every day with her dad working on (her skills).”

Position changes also have required Baumgartner to maintain a focused effort on harnessing her ability.

“Second base is my primary position,” she said. “I love playing shortstop at CK, but it’s one of the leadership positions out there, which is kind of nerve racking.”

The transition hasn’t always been seamless, and Baumgartner experienced that frustration during a 10-0 loss against North Kitsap on April 15.

“The first time we played North this season, I had so many errors,” she said. “I’m supposed to be out there leading my team and I can’t even field a ball. And it was one of the first coach (Clay) Blackwood had seen me.”

The poor performance didn’t prevent Blackwood — the Olympic College volleyball coach and assistant softball coach and recruiting coordinator — from pursuing Baumgartner.

“I coached against her in volleyball and she’s a flat-out competitor,” said Blackwood, the former volleyball coach at NK. “I’m excited to have her out. Everyone says she’s a great kid and I’m excited to bring her on board. She’s a worker.”

Blackwood also planned to talk with Baumgartner about playing volleyball.

“I’m looking at a couple of people who can do both sports,” he said. “I think her concern when I talked with her is that softball is her true passion and she wants to keep her skills up. But I think we can work that out.”

The effort worked as Baumgartner said Monday night that she would join the Rangers’ volleyball team. The decision to attend OC was easier.

“I guess I decided to go there because everyone in my family has gone to OC,” she said. “I have such a strong family base here that it will be hard to leave after two years. We all get together over at my grandmother’s house once a week.”

The family aspect likely means Baumgartner won’t stray too far from home even when her time at OC expires.

“I definitely want to stay in state,” she said. “I’ve had my eyes on Seattle University and Western Washington. They’re both pretty close and I would like to come home on weekends when I want.”

For now, Baumgartner will focus on her final weeks of high school, where she’s busy closing out her term as the student body vice president and chasing a playoff berth in softball. Entering Monday’s game against Shelton, CK (7-8, 5-6 Narrows League Bridge Division) trailed South Kitsap by one game for the division’s final playoff spot.

“It’s going to be a close one,” she said. “It’s good to see us getting out there competing.”

Teammate Dianna Holland, who will attend the University of Oregon next year, described Baumgartner as a “thinking athlete.”

“She’s an amazing fastpitch player,” she said. “She’s focused on every pitch and she’s always one step ahead on the play. She works hard at what she does.”

That concentration came early in life.

“My dad (Dan) and my uncle (Tim) own their own business,” said Baumgartner, referring to the Benik Corporation, a Silverdale-based business that produces athletic products such as knee braces. “My dad has basically taught me everything I know — he basically has been my coach my whole life.”

Lessons that likely will be passed down to the next generation.

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