Sports

BlueJackets have county buzzing

Players, coaches, owners and fans mingled thoughout the Kitsap BlueJackets open house on Thursday, providing an opportunity for the team and community to get more familiar with one another. - Photo by Jesse Beals
Players, coaches, owners and fans mingled thoughout the Kitsap BlueJackets open house on Thursday, providing an opportunity for the team and community to get more familiar with one another.
— image credit: Photo by Jesse Beals

The greeting at the Kitsap BlueJackets open house on Thursday was right in line with the feel of the team so far — warm and welcome in the community.

“Hi,” co-owner Charlie Littman said to one of the many who came walking through the door of the Eagles Nest at the Fairgrounds. “How are you? I’m Charlie. We’re really excited about this team.”

And judging by the turnout, so was everyone else. More than 50 people came by to meet some of the BlueJackets players and coaches, purchase season tickets and team merchandise, and just learn more about Kitsap County’s new summer college team.

“It’s fun to see,” BlueJackets assistant coach Scott Colby said. “A lot of it stems from the success the (Seattle) Mariners have had. It’s helped shape the community of baseball in the Northwest.”

And that community sense was a buzz throughout the evening, with lines forming at the door before the event was even scheduled to begin.

Colby was joined by head coach Matt Acker, originally slated to be gone due to his wife’s pregnancy. Joining the coaches were BlueJackets owners Rick Smith, Wynne Littman, Chuck Huddleston, Bruce Bordenick, Charles Cates and Paul Peterson. BlueJackets pitchers JT Heaton, Jake Peterson, Jay Karlin, Adam Balcom, Matt Regan and Adam Siler, as well as shortstop Jake Wheeler and center fielder Robbie Jameson were the players in attendance.

Acker, also the head coach at Green River Community College in Auburn, said he is excited a league like the West Coast Collegiate Baseball League has finally come to fruition.

“It’s nice to see a lot of people come out,” Acker said. “I think it’s very positive. I played in the (Pacific International League) but the thing was it brought in the ex-pros. There were no people in the stands, no support.”

The PIL, still operating with just four teams, faced a large exodus when the WCCBL formed. Several PIL teams defected into the WCCBL, opting for the collegiate league over the semi-pro version. Acker said the problem with adding former professional players was that it took roster spots away from college kids that need the added development.

“To have a league like this, and NCAA certified — it’s huge,” he said. “It’s an outstanding opportunity for my kids, the kids who’ve played for me and the kids in high school and select leagues.”

As fans made their way in, owners, coaches and players mingled with fans throughout the crowd. After a half-hour, Smith quieted the crowd, announcing the team’s new Web site, www.kitsapbluejackets.com. He also announced the team’s partnership with radio station KITZ, which will broadcast each home and away game this season.

After his announcements, Smith introduced Acker, who spoke to the crowd and introduced the players and coaches. Afterwards, the mingling continued, with fans talking with players and owners about the new team.

What makes this team different from other start-up teams is the chemistry the team already has, Acker said. Many of the players have played together for Acker’s Green River squads or other teams, or currently play together. For example, Heaton, Karlin, Peterson and Wheeler, as well as Andrew Lafave and Mike Tachell, all play for Missouri Valley during the college season.

“I think it’s a strong team,” Acker said. “But the chemistry of this team is what people don’t know. They’ve played for me or friends I have. It’s going to start us out with good chemistry. It’s going to get us all on the same page.”

Heaton agreed, saying the team should be strong right off the bat.

“For the kids that I know on the team, they’re all quality ballplayers,” Heaton said. “They all contribute somehow.”

Siler, who attended South Kitsap High School, said the team gives him the opportunity to continuing playing ball without rearranging his everyday life.

“I can stay close to my family and I can work too,” Siler said. “I can keep my usual life going.”

Siler, who attends Saint Martin’s College in Olympia, said he’s excited he’ll get the opportunity to play so close to home.

“I’m just getting ready to play,” he said. “It’s just exciting to see something like this in town. It’s a great bunch of

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