Summers in Everett means Merchants baseball

EVERETT, WA — One of Snohomish County’s longest running sports traditions is back at it.

The Everett Merchants — a summer baseball team that consists of current and former college players — is in the midst of its 48th season under head coach and general manager Harold Pyatte, and once again this year’s Merchants squad is chalked full of former local high school standouts.

In all, 19 of the 32 players listed on the team’s roster hail from 10 Snohomish County high schools. Arlington (Jacob Burkett, Cole Cramer, Reider Vane), Cascade (Jacob Sesso, Jackson Ramstead), Everett (Aaron Robertson, Casen Taggart), Glacier Peak (Aidan Hammersmark, Jaxon Henderson, Tyson Willis), Lake Stevens (Christian LaPierre), Marysville Getchell (Jack Johnson), Marysville Pilchuck (Tyler DeVries, Jordan Luton), Monroe (Aaron Clogston, Gage Nagy, Ryan Witt), Mountlake Terrace (Jared Maxfield) and Snohomish (Aaron West) are all represented.

So for the likes of 2021 Arlington grads Burkett and Cramer, who played with each other from Little League through high school before going their separate ways for college, a summer with the Merchants is a welcomed reunion.

“Last year, our parents and us as players we’re all (thinking) that was going to be our last chance to play together,” Burkett said of his final high school season. “Now we get the chance to do it again. It’s just fun to come out here and play with your best friends.”

And while plenty of players are getting the chance to catch up with former teammates, the amalgamation of so many former Wesco standouts has created an interesting dynamic for some.

Burkett, Cramer and Vane all contributed to an incredible run of success during their time at Arlington. The Eagles won the final 18 regular season games of their freshman season in 2018 and then all 20 regular season games the next year. COVID-19 wiped out the trio’s junior season, but the team picked up right where it left off and ran off 11 straight wins in 2021 to bring its streak to 49 games. Current Merchants teammate Johnson was a member of the Marysville Getchell squad that ended the streak just shy of 50 in the penultimate game of the season.

“I hated him and (that) team for a while,” Burkett said, “and it was weird going against him (then) because we were teammates at one point playing on summer teams or playing football together. Being able to come back again and play with each other, it’s a blessing to be honest. It’s really fun and … he’s a good guy to have next to your side and be on your team.”

But a summer with the Merchants is about far more than reunions. It’s a chance for local athletes to continue to work on their craft while they’re home from school for the summer.

“It’s a blessing to come out here and get game reps,” said Taggart, a 2021 Everett grad who now plays at Centralia College. “You can’t beat game reps. … It prepares you for the next season.”

Pyatte added that the Merchants also offer something that most of his players who are still playing in the region don’t get during their college seasons — the opportunity to play in warm weather.

“In the Pacific Northwest that’s a big deal,” said Pyatte, a 1961 Marysville High School grad who played one season at Western Washington University before joining the Everett Orioles semi-pro team in 1962. “When these kids are playing in March and April and it’s cold and wet, you don’t truly get to see what they can become. Here they get a chance to open it up and see what they can do in good weather. So it’s a developmental type thing. Hopefully this prepares them for another year in college or to move on (from a junior college) to Division I.”

The Merchants are members of the six-team Pacific International League with the Dub Sea Fish Sticks, Northwest Honkers, Redmond Dudes, Seattle Blackfins and Seattle-Cheney Studs.

Their home games are played at Funko Field. Tickets are $5 for adults, $3 for kids 9-17 and free for children 9 and under.

The Merchants also participate in tournaments held during the summer. In 2017, the team was invited to play in the National Baseball Congress World Series and made a run to the title game to face the Kansas Stars — a team that included former MLB stars Chipper Jones and Roy Halladay — in a game that was televised by ESPN. The Merchants won the NBC World Series in 1988.

Everett is currently scheduled to play in two tournaments this summer: the Grand Forks International Baseball Tournament in Grand Forks, British Columbia, from June 27-July 3, and a four-team tournament hosted by the Studs at the University of Puget Sound that starts July 10. The famed Alaska Goldpanners are also slated to compete in that four-team tournament.

“It’s a good time,” said Cramer of playing for the Merchants. “I love being out here every single day. … Especially with Harold being our coach, it’s kind of like a legacy that you try to carry on every single day. Every day we go out we want to win, but we’re also out here to have a good time.”