The Everett Merchants baseball team opens its season at 1:05 p.m. on Saturday with a home matchup against the Seattle Wallbangers at Funko Field at Everett Memorial Stadium.
The Merchants, a semipro team featuring many college and ex-college players with local ties, are entering their 46th season under head coach Harold Pyatte.
This year’s squad features many new faces and has a youth-laden roster, with six returning veterans of the team sprinkled in.
“We’re in a rebuilding year. We’re young,” Pyatte said. “We’re counting on the six guys coming back to integrate the new (guys) in.”
The Merchants’ six returners are Gavin Bullock, Cody Culp, Jake Tilley, Max Whitt, Nic Anderson and Connor Portugal.
Playing in the summer with the Merchants gives local college players a chance to stay sharp in the offseason and prepares the roster’s younger players for the next level while facing many ex-college and ex-pro players through the season.
“I think that when some of these young guys come in that are freshman and stuff and they see these older players, they determine that they need to step it up a notch here,” Pyatte said.
The team features 14 Snohomish County natives and all 27 of its 28 players are currently playing or have played college baseball.
Everett plays in the six-team Pacific International League, and will play roughly 40 games this season including tournaments.
The Merchants have two tournaments scheduled this season. They will compete in the Grand Forks International Tournament from June 25 through July 1. A few days later they’ll defend their Kamloops International Tournament championship, starting with a July 4 matchup with the Edmonton Cubs.
The team will also resume its annual contest with the Everett AquaSox on June 12 after last season’s contest was rained out.
The Merchants have competed in the National Baseball Congress World Series the past two seasons, highlighted by a second-place finish two years ago. The squad fell to the Kansas City Studs — which featured many former MLB stars such as Chipper Jones and Roy Halladay — in the finals of a game broadcast by ESPN.
“We’ve got a good coaching staff, we’ve got a good group of young men,” Pyatte said. “What type of team are we gonna have? This is my 46th year doing this. Every year is different. You can have surprises or you can shoot for the moon and fall into the ocean.
“You just don’t know how well they’re gonna come together, and I’m hoping that they’ll come together. I expect us to be very competitive.”