Pitch in with the Patriot Athletic League

Local teams looking for players and coaches

By Susan Melnyk on November 23, 2016

The military and baseball may not seem to have much in common, but Kevin Burke would disagree: "They both focus on teamwork. You have fast guys and strong guys, you figure out someone's strengths and put them where they can best help. The best teams win, not necessarily the teams with the best players."

It's not surprising that Burke feels that teams are the key to success.  The retired major has eight deployments under his belt, five to Afghanistan and three to Iraq.  Over Burke's 20 years in the Army, he served as an airborne infantryman at Fort Bragg and Joint Base Lewis-McChord before attending OCS and serving in the 2nd and 3rd Ranger Battalions.  Burke also served in Operation Rhino in the early days of combat operations in Afghanistan and retired from the Army in 2012.

But Burke is too humble to go on about his vast military experience, he'd much rather talk baseball, specifically the kids and volunteer coaches of the Patriot Athletic League.  Having played during his college years, Burke wasted no time getting some friends together to start the league in DuPont shortly after his retirement.  

"We started with ninety-six kids in 2013 and we have 348 playing this year," Burke explained, turning the conversation back to the community.  "We have twenty small business sponsors that help to keep the costs of participation down.  Our costs are twenty-five percent lower than most leagues in the South Sound area.  We also put money aside for scholarships for kids who want to play but may not have the means to do so."

With his son playing on the 12-year-old team this year, Burke will again be joining his fellow volunteers and coaches, many of which are military members themselves. "Seventy-five percent of our coaches are active or retired military.  We really focus on having coaches that are good leaders and are willing to learn to game and facilitate the kids having a great time," said Burke.

With games in Steilacoom and DuPont, the league currently consists of twenty-one baseball and three softball teams that are open to everyone in the community.  "We don't have geographic limitations.  We have kids from all over the area and we're open to anyone who wants to play," Burke explained.   

The league is made possible through the time and vision of local volunteers and extra hands are always appreciated.

"We're always looking for coaches - anything from being a head coach to a practice facilitator.  Even if you don't know anything about baseball, we'd love to have volunteers who can help with marketing or social media, or by being a part of our board of directors."

Joining the Patriot Athletic League is a great way to give back.  

"General McChrystal said that when military members leave service, they can continue to serve.  I know that for my friends and I in the league, this gives us an opportunity to continue to serve the community, just in a different way," said Burke.

"I think that when a lot of people get out, they miss feeling like they are part of something bigger.  Baseball season is kind of like a military mission.  You have your planning, preparation, execution, and when you complete the season you feel like you've accomplished a collective goal, which is always fun."

Registration for the upcoming season will begin in a few weeks and volunteers and coaches are always welcomed.  Learn more at patriotathleticleague.com or find the Patriot Athletic League on Facebook at facebook.com/patriotbaseballleagueJBLM.