Martinez: Heritage ballplayers are winners in community

Tim Martinez: High School Sports

By Tim Martinez, Columbian Assistant sports editor

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The members of the Heritage baseball team walked off the field after their season finale Saturday as winners.

It doesn’t matter that the scorebook read: Battle Ground 5, Heritage 0.

When the Timberwolves opened practice in late February, there was talk of a league championship, advancing to the postseason, maybe even the state tournament.

But those dreams got derailed before the Timberwolves played their first game, when some players got caught up in a hazing incident, resulting in the suspension of several key players.

In a flash, Heritage went from a contender to a team struggling to find its own identity.

The season ended Saturday with that loss, the 15th in 17 games for Heritage.

But that game was the least of what the Timberwolves accomplished on Saturday.

The day started several hours earlier when 15 members of the baseball team showed up at EOCF Early Head Start near the Heritage campus and spent five hours painting and cleaning up the facility, providing a clean and safe environment for children ages 0 to 5.

“It just seemed like a good idea,” first-year coach Mitch Ratigan said. “It was a giving-back-to-the-community type of thing. Obviously, we’ve had our struggles this season, and we wanted to do some good. We wanted to earn some respect from the community and show people that we do have good kids in our program.”

Ratigan also wanted his players to come away from the season feeling good about what they had accomplished.

“We expected a much different result in terms of wins and losses this season,” he said. “But we worked together to get better, and we learned there are bigger things in life than baseball. It was a good time. And it showed that when we work together, we’ve got each other’s back, even in a setting away from baseball.”

Ratigan feels the lessons learned Saturday — and throughout the season — will pay off down the road for the Timberwolves, who will lose only three players to graduation.

“When you look at it, we might have finished the season with two or three players who entered the year expecting to see significant playing time,” he said. “The rest were headed to junior varsity.

“Instead, they got thrown to the wolves a bit. But I think that will provide some valuable experience, not just for baseball, but other sports and life. Sometimes things don’t work out the way you thought, but you still have to compete. We were in a lot of games this season, and with a break here or there, we could have won a few more games. The kids learned to compete this year, and now they just have to learn to win.”

On a personal note, I’d like to thank Coach Ratigan for how he handled himself this season.

He was open and frank in talking with us amid those early season troubles. And he called in every game this season, even the ones in which his team lost 15-0.

And a lot of coaches would not have done that.

And that makes Coach Ratigan and the Timberwolves winners in my book.

• • •

And while we’re on the topic of Heritage High School, we should mention the great day Heritage’s Sean Keller had Saturday at the Centennial Invitational in Gresham, Ore.

Keller broke his own Washington state record in the javelin throw by 10 feet when he won the event with a throw of 244 feet, 1 inch. He also missed the national record by a high school athlete in a high school meet by just one inch.

But because the results of the meet were not made available until rather late on Saturday, we weren’t able to get much into Sunday’s paper.

There are additional details of Keller and other local athletes who had big days at the Centennial meet on our high school blog.

We are also planning on having reporter Matt Calkins catch up with Keller — hopefully from behind — on Monday so we can find out more about his big day.

• • •

It’s another big week in prep sports. But there’s not enough room to detail them all. So head to our preps blog this week as we preview some key events like the 3A district baseball tournament, the 4A and 3A district tennis tournaments and other key league races that are winding down.

Tim Martinez is the assistant sports editor/prep coordinator for The Columbian. He can be reached at (360) 735-4538 or e-mail at tim.martinez@columbian.com