Former Everett Merchants manager and Snohomish County Sports Hall of Famer Harold Pyatte gives his final post-game talk at Funko Field in Everett, Washington on Friday, July 28, 2023. After 50 years with Pyatte at the helm, this is the Merchants’ first season under a different head coach, as Josh Berry takes over when the season begins Saturday. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

Former Everett Merchants manager and Snohomish County Sports Hall of Famer Harold Pyatte gives his final post-game talk at Funko Field in Everett, Washington on Friday, July 28, 2023. After 50 years with Pyatte at the helm, this is the Merchants’ first season under a different head coach, as Josh Berry takes over when the season begins Saturday. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

Post-Pyatte Merchants ready to start their season

The Everett-based summer collegiate baseball team embarks for the first time without its founder.

EVERETT — Although the Everett Merchants baseball team is without newly retired program founder and head coach Harold Pyatte for the first time in 50 seasons, the squad’s summer work regimen remains the same — even in his absence as shot caller.

The Merchants open their 33-game season against the PSSBL Brewers at 7 p.m. Saturday at Funko Field, and first-year head coach Josh Berry is looking forward to carrying on Pyatte’s legacy of running Snohomish County’s long-standing Pacific International League summer collegiate team following the legend’s retirement in 2023.

“Ultimately, its about the players,” Berry said. “Being a guy that went through the ranks, tried college and got the opportunity to play pro ball through this league. … That’s why I took this position over: to be able to help these players get to the next level, no matter what.”

Berry, who was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 25th round of the 1999 MLB Draft after graduating from Lake Stevens High School, also played for the Pacific International League’s Seattle-Cheney Studs, helping them capture their first ever NBC World Series championships in 2013 and 2015.

Berry joined the Merchants coaching staff in 2020 as the team’s pitching coach, which was when he was first approached by Pyatte about eventually taking over the head-coaching gig when Pyatte finally hung it up after the Merchants’ 2023 season.

Everett has its normal dose of returning prospects and former local standouts, which includes 16 players who were a part of Pyatte’s final campaign.

“Harold’s always been really good about creating a foundation for these guys and they’ve always enjoyed playing for him,” Berry said. “So, to be able to return 16 guys knowing it was the year where Harold was going to be retired, its pretty cool to know that I’m getting that level of support that he did.”

The Merchants finished 22-12 overall last summer following back-to-back middling seasons in 2021-22.

The Merchants most tenured player is fourth-year returner Aidan Van Rensum, a 2021 Archbishop Murphy grad and a redshirt junior outfielder at Oklahoma City University. Van Rensum sees the newest Merchants summer experience for was what it usually is: another chance to keep getting better.

“Mostly, its about getting up there and getting at-bats,” said Van Rensum, who batted .293 for the Merchants last summer. “It’s a solid league and there’s some good pitching to see. We have fun, and we have a good time on this team. … Just excited about being back out with the boys.”

Third-year Merchants pitcher and Everett Community College sophomore Reider Vane said he’s also focused on getting bonus reps. The six-foot righty looks to build off his second year in a Merchants uniform, when the 2021 Arlington High grad sported a 2.14 ERA in 42 innings.

“It’s still about the development of the game for me,” Vane said. “I still want to get better and do the things I can to help the team win. It’s also a spot where you can kind of relax and play care-free baseball. It takes some of the added pressure of having to perform off your shoulders.”

After spending most of their post-high school summers playing under Pyatte, both Vane and Van Rensum said it’ll obviously be a different feel this season in the dugout.

“Josh has been a guy I’ve looked up to for the last few years as far as pitching goes,” Vane said. “I mean .. You can’t really fill Harold’s shoes, but he’s going to be someone who will come in and do the absolute best he can for his guys on the field. We’re all excited to have him around.”

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