Local semi-pro baseball team, the Snoqualmie Valley Hurricanes, are making some big strides in bringing baseball to the Valley.
Newly accepted into the Pacific International League of semi-pro baseball, the Hurricanes have been working on their young team by building up players from around the Valley and encouraging post-high school players to join.
Started by North Bend local Peter Kairis, the Hurricanes are the result of many years of work building up a solid baseball program. Kairis’ interest in the sport was reignited when his son started to play, but once the expenses started to pile up, he knew there must be a better way.
“I quickly found out how expensive baseball can be, from private lessons or even renting batting cages and pitching mounds,” Kairis said. “I figured it would be better to own it than rent it, and we have the property here and so we just decided to build it out.”
Kairis started building out his property to be able to house multiple players, and as a training ground where they would be able to focus on improving their skills.
“We started the garage in 2001 or 2002, and turned it into a club house over the last four or five years so we could start having more overnight kids and tournament baseball,” Kairis said. “It just kinda morphed into starting a team, getting our non-profit status, more cages, more pitching mounds, more netting, more stuff to get the kids to work out just so we weren’t spending the money on renting places.”
He started with a U13 pony team and eventually wanted to start a team in the Pacific International League. Eventually all this work lead Kairis to start the Snoqualmie Valley Youth Athletic Association, a non-profit organization to promote sports, education, and life skills. Now that the Hurricanes are part of the league, a 501c3 non-profit organization, they can solicit corporate sponsors to support the team.
Kairis has some history with baseball in the northwest and got a friend of his, former Mariners scout Dan Galaz, to be the Hurricanes’ Director of Player Development.
“I met Dan seven years ago and we became friends and I realized Dan loved doing it for the kids,” Kairis said. “You can to go to any high school and Dan has his pitchers and hitters throughout all King County and all the KingCo leagues and Metro league.”
Now that Kairis and Galaz have started a league team they have been recruiting and training the best players coming out of high school and going into college.
“All the players are upper tier. These are the best kids out of their high school teams, the best kids on their college team that are playing for us,” Kairis said.
But skill isn’t the only factor that the Hurricanes coaches are looking for.
“When we recruit we also want the kid who is coachable, who’s willing to take constructive criticism. Dan and I have a phrase ‘we’re going to tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear,’” Kairis said.
Kairis and the Hurricanes even have some international players among their ranks. They have players from Japan, Venezuela, Portugal, and the Dominican Republic. Kairis said that one of them, Jose Acosta from Venezuela, has a shot at being drafted.
“Jose is a big time hitter, I introduced him to Dan Galaz and we put him through some tests and right now he’s the only guy on the team who, if he does the work over the off-season, very possibly could get drafted,” Kairis said.
According to Kairis, the Hurricanes are doing “OK” in their first year playing in the league. They are at .500 in terms of win percentage and have had some really closes loses.
“We’ve lost several games by two runs or less, six of them by one run which is really tough,” Kairis said. “We played against the Honkers and we lost a close game to them, but the kid on the mound was 24 or 25 years old, the number one pitcher in the league for the last three years and last year he played professional ball.”
However, playing better players is all part of the process to becoming better player yourself, according to Kairis. Being put in a challenging situation forces players to step their game up to the next level.
Kairis said he has heard kids hoping the pitcher’s arm is sore before they go up to bat and says that is the wrong attitude to have.
“You want to hit his 92-mile-an-hour cutter,” Kairis said. “If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best, when they are at their best.”
Moving forward Kairis wants local players to know that there are options to play baseball in the valley and that the Hurricanes are always looking for more players.
“We would like to encourage the local players to stay local after they finish with their 18U,” Kairis said.