by Bruce Williams
By my count, this year’s high school baseball team is number twenty nine. Following in their footsteps is the newest generation of junior high players who have just graduated onto the big field. As I watched one of the first practices this week, I was reminded how important the relationships between player, coach, parents and community really are, and how necessary it is to maintain these programs.
For two years, in 1986 and 87, our fledgling Babe Ruth teams went to the mainland because the other teams didn’t want to make the trip to the island. Parents supplied transportation, food, and support as we tried to compete at a much higher level than we were accustomed to playing. We were the rookies and lost almost every game due to inexperience. By the ’87 school year, interest was growing for a high school program and Mac Greeley, a teacher, agreed to coach the first team in the spring of 1988.
For the next three seasons, Doug Guard, who had coached Babe Ruth the previous two years, took on the job and brought the team up to a competitive level in our Northwest B league, which included most of the schools that we still play today. Building a sports program takes years and Doug deserves credit for getting it off the ground.
In 1991 the high school had grown in enrollment and we were pushed into the Whatcom A league, where we had to play much larger schools. As the ’92 baseball season got underway, the field was in very poor condition, and at some point the other teams in the league flatly refused to play on it. The incident where a visiting player broke his nose sliding into home, was reported to be the final straw.
The ’93 season, however became the tipping point, with every game on the road and parents and players having to travel sometimes twice a week. The fact that the property wasn’t owned by the school district and that no funds were available to make the necessary improvements, almost spelled the end of high school baseball.
But it wasn’t meant to be. Hartman Field was resurrected in 1994, by a much larger community effort led by Ron and Carole Whalen. They formed the San Juan Baseball Booster’s Club to raise the needed money, and to manage and maintain the field through the outfield sign advertisement program. As documented that spring by the Journal’s full page list of contributors and volunteers, it appears that everyone on the island was involved in the renovation project which brought the facility to what it is today.
Since 1996, Rich Warren and Steve Schramm, who had formerly coached little league, have skippered the squad through 20 seasons, numerous district and state playoffs and two final four appearances. Their skills and dedication to our community’s baseball programs are unparalleled.
Hartman Field continues to be a reminder of what can be achieved when the will is there, and the nay sayers are ignored.
The dream would never have become a reality if baseball supporters and our community hadn’t had the vision to disregard the odds and forge ahead. The new sports complex on Carter Avenue has been in the works for years, and Hartman may some day be history, but in my view, thirty years of baseball was worth it. Come out and enjoy a game this season.