IT’S AMERICA’S favorite pastime. And for kids in Sandpoint it is the perfect place to spend the summer – at the baseball field. Many local families recall the days watching our kids play t-ball, cheering them on as they race around the bases, and then treating them to a Dubs’ ice cream cone after the game. As those kids have grown, they have had the opportunity to continue to play summer baseball thanks to many individuals and businesses in the community, among them Peak Sand and Gravel.
Mike Peak, the company’s Vice President and Equipment Manager, and his brother Matt, Vice President and Crushing Superintendent, both played baseball growing up and know how important summer baseball is to being successful at the high school level. The American Legion League has had its ups and downs during recent years, including times when there was not a summer team. So when the Peak brothers became aware that the program was in need of corporate sponsors, the company decided to focus its efforts on doing what it could for Sandpoint baseball.
“We had always given to the community, $100 here and there, but we wanted to step up and change how we did things,” said Mike of their decision to become major sponsors of Sandpoint’s Legion baseball team. And many young athletes are grateful they did.
Sandpoint High School junior Bear Youngdahl began playing baseball at an early age. Over the years he has participated in summer baseball, but this was the first year in high school that he had played American Legion ball. “It was really fun, and I learned a lot,” said Bear. “We got a lot of reps in and improved on our fundamentals and skills, and it brought us closer as a team.”
Mike said many people forget that Sandpoint High School won the State Baseball Championship in 2007, something he attributes in part to the players’ involvement in summer leagues. “It’s important to keep the kids active in summer baseball so they can maintain the competitiveness with the other communities. It makes the high school season that much better,” said Mike. “We want to build the baseball program back to where it was.”
If this past summer is any indication, it looks like it is on its way. The Sandpoint team placed third at districts, defeating both Coeur d’Alene and Lewiston. Sandpoint High School junior Paul Sundquist said playing summer baseball is not only a great time, but agrees it is important for the high school team to succeed.
“This year all the high school players also played summer baseball,” said Sundquist. “And that is crucial because the summer season provides us the experience to get better.” In fact, Paul said he has already seen vast improvement. “We are not going to go into the high school season making the same little mistakes we made at the end of last season. We’ve worked out the kinks, and the experiences we had this summer will transfer to the high school season.” Bear Youngdahl agrees. “I really improved my baseball IQ. Coach Fitchett has really taught us to play smarter baseball. He’s an awesome teacher and coach. He inspires us all.”
But it is not just the opportunity to improve skills that Sundquist said he appreciates about the American Legion team. “It also gave us the opportunity to build relationships,” adding that he is appreciative of the support that the sponsors provide making it very affordable for all the kids.
According to Mike Peak, there is a great deal of talent in the world of Sandpoint baseball and many who are eager to help with the program. In addition to Peak Sand & Gravel, other supporters include Jack and Mary Jo Ambrosiani, Sandpoint Building Supply, Interstate Concrete and Asphalt Company, Panhandle State Bank, Northern Lights Inc., Dr. John and Mary Jo Snedden, Litehouse, Anderson’s Autobody, Inc., Lightning Lube, Slaughter Wholesale, American Legion Post 15, and George and Jenise Eskridge.
George Eskridge is pleased that the program he has supported and been a part of for so many years will continue to survive and thrive, and is grateful to all those who have stepped forward to make it happen.
“I am enthusiastic about the direction our American Legion Baseball team is going and looking forward to a great year next year,” said Eskridge.