Ross Classic carries on legacy of ‘Mr. Silverdale Pee Wee’

Adam Kanouse sat in a folding chair inside the snack shack at Ross Fields, ducking out of 95-degree heat to share a story about Cornelius “Pete” Ross Jr.

With the shack’s door halfway open and 6 p.m. sunshine peeking through, he leaned forward out of the shadows to weave his brief tale. It was about the cost of an impact study that was conducted on the fields’ drainage system some years back.

“The gentleman came in and said it was going to (cost) thousands of dollars,” Kanouse said, referencing a receipt. “He ripped it up and he goes, ‘Pete, when I was younger you let me play here for free. My mom was a single parent and I wouldn’t be who I am today if I didn’t come down here. Now I’m giving back to you.’”

The project was completed free of charge.

Kanouse, the vice president of the Silverdale Pee Wee Adult Association and the director of its All-Star baseball program, has put the finishing touches on the fourth annual Pete Ross Classic, a baseball tournament for little league players that begins tomorrow and culminates Sunday.

The six-team tournament, featuring two Silverdale teams as well as a team from Bainbridge Island, is symbolically bigger than strikes, balls and home runs. It’s about continuing a legacy left by a man who SPWAA members say dedicated his life to youth sports in Silverdale. Ross died June 10, 2008 at the age of 75.

“He’s not dead, he still lives on,” Kanouse said. “We’re moving on with what we have. We’re moving forward.”

Kanouse, whose 14-year-old son plays Pee Wee ball, came up with the idea to start the Pete Ross Classic in 2005. He met Ross in 1999, quickly realizing Ross was a stringent businessperson, but also a generous man.

After joining the association in 1967 to coach his then-9-year-old son’s baseball team, Ross negotiated with the state to acquire the parcel of land where Ross Field is currently located, on Schold Road, off of Clear Creek Road. Five years later, he and Dona established the first softball program for Silverdale-area girls, connected to the Pee Wees.

“I just always thought, ‘We have this man and this family ... and we wouldn’t have what we have without them,’” said Kanouse, who credited the SPWAA board for keeping the association afloat. “He was giving. If there was something we needed, he was always there for us.”

Silverdale Pee Wees offers baseball, football and basketball programs. This summer it had 54 baseball teams, with players ranging from 5 to 12 years old. An extension of the regular season, the league also has All-Star teams for 9-, 10-, 11- and 12-year-old players. The Pete Ross Classic is an All-Star tournament for the 10-year-olds.

“There’s such a big desire to continue playing baseball after it’s all said and done,” Kanouse said. “That kind of runs back into Pete Ross’ vision, which is to always have children involved in athletics.”

In years past, Ross attended the tournament along with his entire family to present a trophy to the winning team. Kanouse said Ross’ wife, Dona, will attend this year’s tournament to carry on the tradition.

The military Color Guard is set to kick off pre-tournament festivities with a presentation of the American flag and National Anthem. When action on the field begins, pool-play will determine seeding for bracket-style competition Sunday, with the championship game beginning at 3 p.m.

“Our vision is to make sure that kids have a safe place to play and kids are able to play,” Kanouse said. “We just need to keep getting bigger and better and improving and enlarging and looking for places to play.”

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