Pullman all-star teams head to state tournament

Coaches choose players with best skills, attitude; players practiced together for under two weeks before districts

Coach+Shawn+and+Amber+Deeds+bring+the+Bulls+together+between+innings+during+the+2021+PYBA+Championship+Game.

COURTESY OF KANALE RHODEN

Coach Shawn and Amber Deeds bring the Bulls together between innings during the 2021 PYBA Championship Game.

EMMA LEDBETTER, Evergreen deputy news editor

Pullman Youth Baseball Association is sending two all-star teams to compete at the state Little League tournament this month.

The 11 to 13-year-old intermediate all-star team will compete on July 10 in Des Moines, Washington. The 8 to 10-year-old minor team will play on July 24 in Centralia, said PYBA marketing director Kanale Rhoden.

“[I’m looking forward to] a bigger tournament and more competitive teams — just the feel of the game over there,” said Harrison Focht, 10-year-old minor division player.

Both teams won the district tournament for their division in Walla Walla at the end of June, Rhoden said. 

PYBA had about 125 players on four intermediate division teams and four minor division teams this season, he said. Coaches selected the players with the best skills and attitude — on and off the field — to compete on the all-star teams.

The all-star players only had about a week and a half to practice together before competing at districts, said Ryan Focht, PYBA president and minor coach.

“Just creating those memories is really why we form these teams,” Ryan said. “We want our kids to have good experiences and enjoy baseball — not just baseball, but friendships and lasting relationships.”

In 2019, PYBA joined Little League, which allows the association to compete at the state all-star level, he said. 

“PYBA … wanted to make Pullman a baseball town at all levels, with our high school and WSU baseball,” Rhoden said. “Little League has matched that idea and theory.”

This is the first full season of competition with all-star teams because COVID-19 cut the last season short, he said.

“I like seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces when they make a big hit or they make an incredible defensive play,” Rhoden said. “After 2020, I don’t think we’ve seen this many smiles on the baseball field like we did this season.”

Ryan said players missed a crucial development period because of the 2020 season, but since then, he has already seen a remarkable improvement in the children playing.

Any child who wants to play can be placed on a PYBA team, Rhoden said. Coaches host an assessment day at the beginning of the season to run through various drills.

Most of the coaches are players’ parents, Rhoden said, but some community members volunteer because they are passionate about baseball.

“It’s a joy to be able to teach the game to the youth, especially coming out of COVID,” Ryan said.