The people of Darrington have rallied together in recent weeks while recovering from a devastating mudslide that destroyed a nearby neighborhood March 22.
Tuesday the city takes another big step toward normalcy with a different kind of rally. The kind that occurs on a baseball diamond.
This high school baseball game in Darrington is a big deal. It is something the city needs. It’s not just a distraction for a couple of hours, it’s a chance to cheer, to smile, to come together and to celebrate.
“It’s the first (baseball) game since the slide,” Darrington Athletic Director Cory Ross said. “They’ve had a couple practices — most of the kids have missed them because they’re volunteer efforts — but this is the first real game for the team since it happened.”
The local response and support for Darrington in the wake of the disaster has been nothing short of spectacular. From money and food donations to Seahawks and Sounders visiting to charity pickup football games and motivational Twitter hashtags (#Osostrong), Washington has shown what a close-knit state it is.
Now, I’m going to ask those reading this to do one more thing: Get out to Darrington on Tuesday afternoon for a baseball game. It will be another chance to stand strong in our support of this community and to show that something else besides tragedy can bring people together: Sports.
I want the stands in center field packed. I hope that there are people lined along the fence. What else do you have going on at 4 p.m. on a Tuesday? Work? That happens all the time. How often do you get to come to a small community and help a town heal?
Loggers head coach Cam Ross, Cory’s cousin, doesn’t expect a large crowd for Tuesday’s contest. But I’m sure he wouldn’t mind being proven wrong.
“It’s hard to say. I think a lot of people feel like there’s still a job to be done,” Cam Ross said. “I expect our normal crowd of parents and students, and some friends to come out and watch the game.”
Hesitating about coming out because you don’t know the players or teams competing? Well, it’s baseball, isn’t it? America’s pastime. Played by high school kids, yes, but entertaining nonetheless.
And it’s not difficult to root for these players.
There’s junior Trent Green, who plays football, basketball and baseball for the Loggers. His football coach calls him a flat-out “exceptional kid.”
Don’t forget Ben Rankin. Along with his brother Oliver — both sons of Darrington Mayor Dan Rankin — and countless other Darrington student athletes, he has spent the past two weeks, including his spring break, sorting and packing boxes of food and supplies for first responders and victims of the mudslide.
Rankin and Green were two of the “three to four” players at shortened, optional team practices this week. As soon as it was done, the duo immediately returned to helping wherever they could.
“The whole high school — the student body, the girls’ teams, wrestling teams, basketball teams, football teams, you name it — they’re all great kids,” Cam Ross said. “There’s just a good student body in general. As far as the baseball kids, they are just good all-around kids willing to help out whenever asked to do so.”
Like the rest of Darrington’s population, the Loggers have done everything they can to help in the wake of the mudslide.
“I’m not surprised that they’re the ones here working, I’m just surprised how dedicated they are,” Cory Ross said. “It’s just amazing to see the 10-hour days, or however long they’re putting in depending on the day, and just how dedicated they are to just seeing this thing through.”
Even though it’s poised to be a special game for the city of Darrington, don’t expect any special festivities on Tuesday. Ross said it will be a regular baseball game with no interruptions.
And that’s by design.
“Nothing special. You don’t want to pause the game to think about it,” the athletic director said. “It’s one of those, ‘Let’s just play the game.’ We’re just going to get them playing.”
Now, I’m not saying to boo Lummi, Darrington’s opponents. I’m sure head coach Jim Sandusky and the Blackhawks — based near Bellingham — are wonderful people. And as a journalist, I’m trained not to take sides.
But as a human being, who has been to Darrington a few times since the mudslide, I may as well be wearing a green and yellow baseball cap with a giant “D” on the front.
The game is shaping up to be quite a contest. At 0-2, the Loggers are looking for their first victory of the year and some early momentum at the start of their season. A younger squad, Darrington is coming off a thrilling 19-18 loss to Tacoma Baptist that went 10 innings on March 22, the same day as the mudslide.
The team still has position battles going on, as Ross looks to see how the kids respond to getting back to a more routine schedule.
“It’ll be big in that regard, to get back into a mindset for baseball,” Ross said. “It’s that fine line of wanting to try and establish some normalcy into their routines. But at the same time, some of them are still in that mindset of: ‘As soon as practice is over, what can I do to help out?’
“But I’m expecting a good game on Tuesday from both teams.”
And why not make a day of the whole experience? Maybe go to the Burger Barn afterwards for a family dinner. Personally, I recommend the Logger Burger. Or if you’re of age, stop on by the Red Top Tavern and grab a Rainier while the regulars explain how they know everyone in the bar — except you.
This being Western Washington, there’s always the chance that the weather will not be cooperative. Darrington’s first game after the mudslide was scheduled to be against La Conner on Friday, March 28, but it was rained out. There’s the all-to-real possibility that the weather could turn the ball field into what Cory Ross calls “Logger Lake.”
But even if there are a few sprinkles, Ross is going to try his very best to get this game started on time at 4 p.m.
“Hopefully we can keep the game going,” Ross said. “We’re going to do everything we can to get it (in). The kids need to start playing. Most of our league has five or six games under their belt and we’ve got one game. They need to get going just to see where their season might take them.”
If you like good stories, if you like sports, heck, if you like America, get out to Darrington on Tuesday. If it helps, I can fit three more in my car.
For the rest of you, I’ll see you at the game.