Scappoose junior baseball leads three teams in third year
Scappoose JBO, the local program of the Junior Baseball Organization, finished its second full season this month.
The program was started in 2019 by a group of parents who wanted their children to have the opportunity for more competitive baseball experience before high school.
"We know that the key to having a consistently successful (high school baseball) program is having a really good youth program," Scappoose baseball coach Cameron Webb said.
Scappoose Little League is a strong program and offers teams for up to 14 year-olds, but many nearby little league programs end in sixth grade, making it hard for the eldest Little Leaguers to find competition, Webb said.
Scappoose JBO got started in fall 2019 after Webb "just put the info out there as far as why I thought this would be a good step for our community."
Webb said he introduced the idea of a JBO team to parents "but said the only way this is going to work is if we have parents who are really invested and willing to take ownership." Parents immediately stepped up to form the program, he added.
Scappoose JBO held tryouts, built two teams and had one practice in spring 2020 — right before the pandemic hit.
Though that season ended, organizers stayed determined and started again in 2021, with two teams.
This year, the program was able to field three teams — one in each of the three skill levels that JBO offers within its seniors (seventh and eighth grade) division.
JBO also offers programs starting in the third grade, but Scappoose opted only for the seniors in order to smooth the transition into high school competition, rather than trying to replace Little League.
"It really sets those kids up to be playing together before they get into high school," Scappoose JBO board president Steve DuBois said. "Then when they get into high school, they hit the ground running, and then they've already … been competing at their skill level, to allow themselves to get better."
In JBO's seniors division, teams compete on high school-size fields, and basestealing is allowed.
The spring 2022 season "was better than we were planning," vice president Jeanne Olson said. "We were thinking we would have two teams again, and ended up having enough kids to have three teams."
Scappoose JBO had 38 players this spring, DuBois said.
"The first couple of years, nobody knew what JBO was or what it was about. And we were just trying to get the word out. But now it seems like going from Little League, they're understanding what the next step is for baseball," Olson said.
The first eighth-graders to have a full Scappoose JBO season have now finished their freshman year, and Webb said the difference is clear.
"Our JV team this year was way more successful than our JV team had been in the past," and had more kids "who are ready for what they are stepping into," Webb said.
Scappoose JBO is now looking to establish a summer season, which could expand to include 11- and 12-year-olds, since Little League is over by the time the summer season would start, DuBois said.
Based on Scappoose's size, the local JBO program will probably continue to have three teams in future spring seasons, rather than growing, Olson said. "But in the future, definitely getting a fall-summer season more established and getting that to be a regular thing is definitely one of our goals," Olson added.
Westside JBO, one of three JBO districts in Oregon, splits the programs into smaller divisions, similar to OSAA conferences at the high school level.
Scappoose was placed in what was likely the toughest division this season, Olson said, with multiple teams ending up ranked among the top teams in the state.
"We've had a lot of really competitive games. We are, unfortunately, in probably the toughest division this year, (but) the kids have improved a ton," Olson said.
Which skill level teams a program will offer is based on the number of participants and the high school the program is affiliated with. Since Scappoose High School was 5A and had enough players for three teams, JBO required one National team, the beginning skill level; one American, or intermediate, team; and one Federal, or advanced, team.
This spring, Jim Olson was the Federal team coach; Ben Morris was the American league coach; and Ryan Murphy was the National team coach, DuBois said.
The coaches "have played baseball in their pasts and are just excited to get the kids playing more baseball, learning more things, learning the intricacies and preparing them all for high school — which is basically the goal of JBO," Olson said.
Since forming in 2019, Scappoose JBO has also been involved in facility upgrades on the Scappoose High School baseball diamonds, which serve as the team's home field.
Parents involved with JBO have assisted or led projects to upgrade the dugouts, JV field mound, purchase a moveable home run fence for the JV field, and raise funds for a few JV scoreboard.
"That's one thing we're pretty proud of: getting the facilities up to a higher standard," DuBois said. "We have a lot more projects that we'd like to get done, to build that baseball facility up and get kids more involved."
DuBois and Olson were two of the founding board members, but other board positions have already seen turnover. Since board members are generally parents, they often only remain involved as long as they have a child in the program — which would only be two years for a single child in Scappoose JBO. But DuBois said the group has worked hard to make the transition easier for board members and the organization by mapping out the responsibilities and annual calendar.
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