By Jeremy McDonald
KEIZER, Ore.–A team consisting of a variety of talent levels and classifications joined in for the six-week, 12-game season of Fall Ball with SWAT Baseball.
Kids from South Salem, North Salem, and North Marion to name a few that joined in the fun and there was even a kid all the way from Camas, Washington that came down to join the fun in freshman Cameron Smith.
For the frosh, the experience was worth the hour-plus drive from Southwestern Washington as he’s seeing what it takes to play baseball at a ‘Varsity’-level.
“I’m seeing Varsity-level pitching and Varsity-level sticks out here, so I’m thinking it’s helping a lot,” said Smith. “I think we did great and we showed it. We only had one-loss this season, I think it was great baseball.”
With kids like Brady Hansen (North Marion), Sean Alvarado (South Salem), Jake Mason and Reyes Luna (North Salem), already making a name for themselves on their respective Varsity rosters in one-way or another; new faces at schools in freshman like a Danny Alvarado (South Salem) or kids trying to make the Varsity roster this upcoming spring, they too echoed how much the Fall Season facing talent similar to what they’ll see at the Varsity-level.
Noah Fergunson, who touched base on how much it’ll help him trying to get to the Varsity level at South Salem this year either as an infielder or a pitcher, spoke to how these guys from different schools, different classifications and even different States came together as a unit in a short period of time to succeed.
“I think it’s just a brother-mentality, being able to rely on one another and just being able to know that someone has your back even when you’re not putting your best game,” “And so for us to being able to win and not being able to rely on one person, just having that group mentality, I think that was a big part of why we were so successful.”
As for kids like Alvarado and Mason, who are looking to make the move to the next level and are going to a few showcases over the next few weeks for colleges, the experience was just a stepping stone for them in the process of making the move to the next level.
“I think it’s going to help a lot,” said Mason on how this offseason is helping him is going to continue to help him improve as a player. “It’s not really nervousness as I need to make adjustments quicker to make sure that I have my best game for the people watching for college and prepare myself to play baseball.”
Mason, who’s entering his senior campaign at North Salem and should be in that starting pitcher rotation out there with Nick Raska and Cameron Kallhoff, struck out 13 batters in his no-hitter performance against Keizer Sunday afternoon and struck out six/seven against Jerry McMullen’s team last Sunday that features West Salem’s Logan Johnson and a few key players from that Titans squad and Sprague’s 2017 teams as he describes his third-ever No-Hitter.
“It was pretty awesome, I have thrown only three in my entire life so it was pretty good for me,” said Mason. “It was my first one complete. I’ve had several combined but this is pretty big for me. This one felt amazing, all this High School competition…it’s really showing all of my hard work is paying off and I’m really started to dial in for the rest of the way.
“I am a lot more confident in my pitches and throwing today, this is McNary High School, they’re a pretty good team. I was able to strike out 13 of them and not allow a hit, I guess I came pretty prepared.”
His catcher in Luna, who’s returning this year healthy after breaking his hand last year as a junior, ironically caught all three of his no-hitters and continues to build that bond the two have with one another since they were 12-years-old.
“I love Reyes he’s caught my other two no-hitters, he’s caught me my whole entire life. I’ve known him since I was 12, since he started catching me and we’ve been a power couple since,” laughed Mason describing the pitcher-catcher relationship between him and Luna. “It helps me a lot, I just like knowing he’s back there and catching me, he’s a great friend of mine ad he’s just my guy.”
As the SWAT team, goes their spereate ways after their final game at Volcanoes Stadium and enter the winter months of training; it’s just a matter of time before the Sandlot Kids are unpacking the gear again when the rain subsides into Spring here in a few months.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald