Tournaments | Story | 7/16/2013

West Coast, best coast

Matt Rodriguez        
Photo: Perfect Game

MARIETTA, Ga. - The West Coast Mariners, a Seattle Mariners scout team loaded with future Division I and professional baseball talent for the 2015 class, came to the 2013 16u WWBA National Championship in Georgia from a completely opposite part of the country.

Guys from as far away as Yelm, Washington have traveled over 2,600 miles to play in a tournament they have heard so much about to show the rest of the country what kind of talent the Northwest has to offer. 

“It was actually the suggestion of a lot of coaches,” said West Coast coach Jeff Sakamoto. “They say, ‘You gotta go down to East Cobb. You gotta go down and play at the Perfect Game stuff.’”

“(There are) a lot of good teams down here, so it’s good to go against some of the better competition from around the U.S. and we’re showing what we can do,” said infielder Parker Kelly.

The team was pieced together with the help and recommendations from a lot of different people in the Northwest and the observations of coach Sakamoto, who is a Seattle Mariners scout in the Portland, Oregon area.

“It’s guys that I’ve seen over the years and it’s guys that have been recommended by Pac-12 coaches,” coach Sakamoto said. “It’s a lot of guys that we, as the Mariners, have our eyes on in the future and a lot of the Northwest schools have looked at as the guys they are starting to recruit.”

The roster is made up mostly of players from Washington and Oregon, with two coming from Idaho and their shortstop from Las Vegas, Nevada.

“One of the guys from Oregon State told ‘em about me and Jeff called me and I jumped right on it,” said the Las Vegas shortstop, Cadyn Grenier. “Playing with some of these guys from Oregon and Washington has been a blast.”

“The Northwest has a lot of talent and people don’t really realize that, but I think that since we put the team together we are really bonding,” said outfielder Colton Sakamoto, a player Perfect Game has been watching with great interest.

The Mariners scout team is used to traveling to tournaments on the West Coast, but this is the first time they’ve made a trip to the Atlantic.

“This is the first time we’ve done this with the Perfect Game deal,” said coach Sakamoto. “This is the first time we’ve crossed the country and done something like this.  This memory’s gonna last for a lifetime. We don’t travel a whole lot where we’re from. To get out here and play and compete with guys and just see where we’re at and how we can improve our game is really cool.”

The team has played well through five tournament games so far, with a record of 2-2-1. Just yesterday the Mariners had a convincing 8-0 win over Team DeMarini GA 15u.

“We’re meshing really well. We got a lot of great guys, a lot of guys that offer different things, a lot of two-way guys,” said Kelly. “Our pitching and defense is really carrying us right now.”

“This is a really well put together team,” added Grenier.

“This is our first tournament together,” Colton Sakamoto said. “As soon as we get the bats going I think that’s where we’ll really bond together as a team.”

The makeup of this team is very unique: they are mainly Northwest kids who don’t get to play nearly as much baseball as most other teams and have never played ball on this side of the country, their shortstop was recruited to play from Las Vegas, and they have two Oregon State commits and two University of Washington commits.

Anders Green and Alex O'Rourke are both committed to play baseball at Oregon State, a school that made it to Omaha, Nebraska for the fifth time this year and won back-to-back national titles in 2006-07.

Green, who attended this year's Jr. National Showcase at the Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota, is the third ranked prospect in Oregon for the class of 2015.  David Irvine and Karsen Lindell are the other two committed prospects on the West Coast Mariners. Both are committed to the University of Washington, A Pac-12 school with eight past NCAA Tournament appearances.  Lindell, a right-handed pitcher from Oregon, is the 95th national prospect for the 2015 class and the second overall prospect in Oregon for that same class.

Grenier is currently ranked 127th in the 2015 class, but may see his name rise up those rankings with an impressive showing both at the plate and on the field defensively at this event.

“These are pretty much some of the premier guys from the Northwest and we get guys like Cadyn to come play,” said Kelly.

“(I am enjoying) playing with these and learning a lot from them. We play different,” Grenier said. “We all have different thoughts about different things and I’m learning from these guys and I’m really adding to myself and showing them the way I play.”

“They accepted me right away,” Grenier said about playing with a mainly Washington and Oregon team. “It wasn’t a tough transition to be with these guys at all.”

“I feel like all of us are kind of the same guy -- we come out and just wanna play baseball, so we’re gonna do anything we can for each other and come out and play as a team,” added Kelly.

Parker Kelly, the 40th ranked prospect nationally for the class of 2015 is the younger brother of Carson Kelly, a second round pick of the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2012 MLB Draft.  With his now professional experience, Carson has been able to give his younger brother the inside perspective most kids don’t have the fortune of seeing.

“It was so much fun to be able to go through that process with him. He’s been my buddy since day one,” said Kelly. “He let me sit in on all his meetings. He was asking me, ‘What do you think I should do?’

“One of the biggest things that he taught me was just keep having fun and enjoy the game cause you never know when you’re gonna have to take the spikes and hang ‘em up,” Kelly said. “Always train harder, cause there’s some guy around the U.S. trying to take your spot so don’t let them outwork you.”

Grenier agreed with Kelly, saying, “There’s no breaks in Vegas. You play winter, you play spring, you play summer, fall, everything. It’s a grind. There’s a lot of good baseball players in Vegas.”

Grenier and the West Coast Mariners are getting a first-hand look at what kind of talent the rest of the country has.

“We don’t get to play East Coast teams all that often and to come out and play with our group and see where we mash with other kids in the country is really fun.” Although, they remind everyone around which coast is the better, yelling 'West Coast, best coast' after a win.

Sakamoto offered another positive note, saying, “The biggest thing for me is just seeing different pitching -- seeing lefties that throw pretty hard and righties that bring 90 mph all the time. I think that’s good just to see where I’m at, see where our team’s at, and what we can improve on.”

Coach Sakamoto and his team have enjoyed their first tournament on the East Coast and are catching some attention with their play.

“It’s been a really good trip. Our guys are already talking about the next one (PG tournament) they wanna do, so we love it,” said coach Sakamoto. “It’s great to come down here and play against some really good competition and you guys (Perfect Game) do a great job -- first class all the way.”

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