The grass is a little more brown in spots, and with a recent streak of dry, hot days, the winds that once cooled baseball players at South Whidbey High School whipped up dirt and dried grass this past Friday afternoon.
In the blisteringly hot sun, South Whidbey took on the Burlington Sox in another American Legion game, the eighth series of the season that started the week after the state high school championship ended.
Most of South Whidbey’s stars aren’t on the team, they play elsewhere or are already busy preparing for other sports, such as football. Charlie Patterson, one of the team’s ace pitchers and a stalwart outfielder and batter, was a home run away on the football field working out in a different kind of helmet. One of the Cascade Conference MVP candidates, Ricky Muzzy, is playing with a different select baseball team. Other returning varsity players were injured, or didn’t play due to family vacations, work, or other sports commitments.
Instead, it’s the Falcons (and six Coupeville Wolves) of tomorrow who are sharpening their game, often through some mistakes and mishaps, in Legion play. With a roster of 18 players, and usually about a dozen who show up on game days, more of the underclassmen are taking the field.
“That’s the way the whole season’s been,” said head coach Tom Fallon, who also leads the Falcon high school team. “We’ve had, more or less, the younger guys playing.”
“Same old thing. We make do with what we’ve got,” he added.
On Friday against Burlington, there were a lot of bruises. The Sox took a quick lead after getting on base with a string of hits, and a couple of mistakes by fielders being out of proper position. Three errors were committed by the South Whidbey team in the first inning, and things never rebounded for the Falcons in the first half of the doubleheader.
“It makes a big difference having more seasoned guys, our defense is a lot more solid when that happens,” Fallon said.
Reaching the playoffs in this offseason tuneup isn’t much of a priority for Fallon. He didn’t say what the team’s overall record was, instead saying only, “It’s not good.”
“It’s so hard to compete against Bellingham, and Mount Vernon, and Burlington and Anacortes,” he said. “What I’m finding is their kids play 60 games a summer. We’re getting 20 in.”
The team is going through some growing pains. Without the older players and a vacuum of five seniors who graduated earlier in June, the field is devoid of chatter from the usually chirpy Falcon dugout. The loudest voice was Fallon’s as he chided a player for being out of position on what he later said was a routine grounder and should have been an out.
“That’s where I get a little frustrated,” he said. “In summer ball, we take a lot different approach. But I’m still sending a message that I want them to work on fundamentals, and that’s the routine out.”