Justice Elson throws a ball during a Soldotna High School baseball team practice last week. The new team expects to play its first home game on May 11.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
The hard part is over.
Now it’s time to have some fun.
After months of planning, discussions, budgeting and fundraising, the Soldotna High School baseball team is set to take the field for its inaugural season, following the lead of its sister softball program, which succeeded in its first year last season.
“It was more envy,” SoHi coach Robb Quelland said. “The high school girls were playing and they were doing well and we had a hole for the boys. We’re doing it for the kids and for the town.”
With initial talks beginning around October, the pieces for the completely outsourced program began falling into place in January.
Coach Robb Quelland talks to the team during a practice last week.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
“We were starting from ground zero. Our budget was about $8,000. We had to raise $8,000 in about two-and-a-half months,” Quelland explained, adding they were well received from the public safety community. “We’re almost there. We’re well within our budget.”
About 45 students originally signed up to play, but that number has since been whittled to around 11.
“A lot of them really wanted to play until they realized it was going to be work,” he said. “A lot of them were committed to track and soccer.”
Having coached little league for roughly 15 years, Quelland is assisted by Ray Waters, who he said has similar experience.
The biggest help, though, may come from volunteer, Bill Seamon, who Quelland said moved here from Missouri and has about 25 years of high school and collegiate coaching experience.
“He’s a retiree from Missouri and just loves baseball and comes and helps out when he can,” he said. “He’s not an official coach, but more of a mentor or a guide. I wish he was there every day. The kids are pretty impressed with him.”
Like most soccer teams, the Stars were confined to conditioning in school gyms for about a month-and-a-half before finally stepping outside for the first time two weeks ago.
And while they’re just beginning to hone their skills, Quelland said the team’s strength will definitely be leadership.
“We have some really strong leaders that have played on other teams that are bringing that to our team, especially as a new team,” he said, adding their weakness will clearly be experience.
“Out of the (11) kids, we have only (two) that played on the same (Legion) team last year,” he said. “Everyone else is about two years off or coming out of little league.”
Quelland was speaking of sophomore infielder Justice Elson and junior Larsen Kohler, who could be one of the top pitchers on the team.
Other promising pitchers include seniors Rich Hatt and Michael Eskue.
Quelland is also excited about junior Keita Sugano, a Japanese exchange student who is already impressive.
“He’s got a great attitude,” Quelland said. “He brings a different type of baseball to us. It’s a little more flashy than American baseball. The kids have all really warmed up to him.”
Other members of the team include seniors Jason Beals and Michael Ragsdale and freshmen Cody Clark, Josh Harvey, Steve Steger, David (DJ) Stilchen and Stan Westerman.
While they hope to have a successful first season, Quelland said they’ve already met some expectations.
“One was raising the money, fielding a team of good kids that want to play baseball and all the things we have to jump through,” he said. “It was beyond my belief how much work this was and how many people stepped in to help out.”
The Stars open the season at home on May 11 against Homer, which Quelland said is one of the strongest teams he’s seen.
“It definitely should be a learning experience for us,” he said.
But with a talented group of youngsters, Quelland envisions a promising future for the program.
“We have great talent. It’s just a matter of getting them to play as a team,” he said. “It may take a year. It may take two years, but I definitely think in years to come we will be one of the stronger teams in the state.
“With the kids we have coming in, we’re going to be a great team.”
Matthew Carroll can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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