The Kamiak High School baseball program was struck with a double dose of tragedy last summer.
Longtime Mukilteo School District teacher Frank Nickerson, who coached the Knights in 2015 and 2016, passed away July 16 after a battle with colorectal cancer.
Two weeks later, Jake Long, a 2015 Kamiak graduate and former Knights baseball player, was shot and killed by a gunman at a Mukilteo party.
The Kamiak athletic department will honor the memories of Nickerson and Long by hosting the first Jake Long Memorial Baseball Tournament, which begins Friday and runs through Sunday at Kamiak High School. The first game is scheduled for 9 a.m. Friday.
“We want to keep their spirits alive,” said Darren Watkins, a Mukilteo School District employee, coach of the Seattle Tides baseball team and one of the tournament organizers.
The six-team tournament is a fundraiser for two newly christened scholarships that will be awarded annually to Kamiak baseball players. Admission is free, so most of the money generated by this year’s tournament will come from entry fees, Knights athletic director Sean Monica said.
“We want to support (the families of Nickerson and Long) and help them heal,” Monica said. “We also want to make sure the community embraces this tournament so it can become a positive tradition. We hope this can become a great living legacy for Frank and Jake, something they’d be proud of.”
Watkins and Ray Atkinson of Chaffey Baseball used their baseball connections to plan and organize the tournament.
“The first year has been a little tough because we started late, but we’re doing the best we can,” Atkinson said. “The umpires have agreed to work for free, and we’ve had a lot of parents volunteer to sell concessions and things like that. It’s been a big community effort to get this started.”
The Laces Baseball Academy, Snohomish Sox, Chaffey Baseball, Seattle Tides, Northwest Bandits Showcase and Northwest Bandits Elite 18U squads will participate.
“We wanted to get as many local teams as we could, and there are some very good teams around the Mukilteo area,” Atkinson said.
The last of Friday’s four games features the two Bandits teams, a gesture that was considered appropriate by the organizers because Long played for both of those squads. Nickerson’s son Dominic also was part of the Bandits program.
At the end of the tournament, two awards will be given out — the Jake Long Memorial Most Valuable Player and the Frank Nickerson Memorial Most Valuable Pitcher.
Watkins and Atkinson are already thinking about ways to expand the tournament in the future.
“We’ll study how this one goes and learn from it,” Monica said. “Darren and Ray and myself and the booster club are committed in partnership with the families (of Long and Nickerson) to make this tournament a success.”
“We’ll get started small, but our goal is to build it up into one of the top three or four best tournaments in the state,” Atkinson said. “We’d love to make it a 16-team (tournament at some point). We’re looking into getting teams from out of state. We’re going to build this into something special.”