By David Krueger Herald Writer
DARRINGTON — The Darrington High School baseball team was scheduled to host Tacoma Baptist last Saturday.
But a last-minute change sent the Loggers to Tacoma — and out of harm’s way.
Mid-week rain and snow riggered Darrington athletic director Cory Ross to check with Tacoma Baptist officials to see if the game could be played away from a flooded Darrington baseball field. The game was moved to Cirque Park in University Place and according to Ben Rankin, the Loggers’ left fielder, Darrington left at around 10 a.m. for Tacoma.
Less than an hour later, a deadly mudslide hit nearby Oso.
“Weather-wise, we (probably) could have played in Darrington. But I’m so happy we didn’t,” Ross said. “… I don’t even like thinking about it. I would imagine that if that game happened here (some players) would have been home with their families.
“I’m very thankful that it worked the way it did, to get the few people out of town that could have been there.”
While on the bus ride to the game, the Darrington players began hearing about a mudslide via text message, but the texts didn’t reveal the severity of the situation.
“We went through there, I think at 10 (o’clock in the morning), and it happened at 11,” said Rankin, the son of Darrington mayor Dan Rankin. “At first, we were in Everett when we heard about there’s a slide and the road was blocked. We just heard if your parents were going to go to the game they might want to go the long way.”
The messages explained that Highway 530 was blocked, but the Loggers had no idea of the extent of the damage to the area just outside their hometown.
“Right when we got to the game and were getting off the bus I got a text that said there was a landslide. I pictured a little bit of dirt over the road and I was like, ‘Oh, they’ll have it cleared before we get home,’” said Trent Green, a junior for the Loggers. “Then the coaches got there and told (Darrington player) Quinton (Kuntz) everything that happened and we heard that their house was gone and we realized it was a little more serious. Then we started seeing pictures and it was much more than we expected.”
Darrington proceeded to play Tacoma Baptist, with the game quickly becoming a thriller. The Crusaders ended up defeating Darrington 19-18 in 10 innings. The players said the situation in Darrington was on their minds, but they did their best to focus on the baseball game.
“For the circumstances, it was one of the best games I’ve ever been a part of as a coach, to see those guys’ resilience battling back inning after inning,” said Darrington head coach Cam Ross. “I’d never been a part of a four-and-a-half-hour game myself, so it was pretty amazing to watch those guys do what they did.”
Ross, who grew up in Darrington, started hearing about the extent of the devastation. With his town scrambling, Ross felt bad worrying about the Loggers’ baseball game.
“Growing up here and coaching and teaching up here, when people were saying that Steelhead Drive was gone, I knew exactly the scale,” Ross said. “On the bus ride home, it was just … everything kind of hit: this is way more than we thought. It’s been difficult, because you want to get your mind off of it, but at the same time you feel guilty playing baseball and doing something other than helping out.”
On the bus ride home, the magnitude of the situation really started to hit the players. As soon as they got back to Darrington, many jumped off the bus and headed right to the fire station to see what they could do to help.
Said Rankin: “A lot of kids, the second they hopped off the bus, they were heading over to the fire hall to see if they could help.”
And the players have been helping out ever since. Along with countless others from Darrington High School, the baseball team has helped sort and deliver food, wash emergency vehicles and pitch in wherever else they’re needed.
The team still has practice during the day, but it’s been shortened so that the players can get back to helping the relief effort. The Loggers were scheduled to play the first varsity game since the mudslide on Friday — the softball team had a junior varsity game against Sedro-Woolley on Wednesday — but it was postponed because of inclement weather.
“We’ve been practicing but it hasn’t been completely normal,” Green said. “It’s been only about an hour long instead of two and a half. We’ve been playing some fun games to try to take our minds off it. … Everybody’s wanting to do whatever they can. Right now I would much rather be helping than playing baseball.”