Former Sehome standout John Albert to pitch for Bells this season

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJune 5, 2013 

Former Sehome standout John Albert throws as he practices with the Bellingham Bells team at Joe Martin Stadium on Tuesday, June 4, in Bellingham.

ANDY BRONSON

Former Sehome all-state pitcher John Albert is back home. The kid who pitched the Mariners to the 2011 state title game and is known for traveling everywhere by bike, just as some of his seven siblings do, will once again be playing ball at Joe Martin Stadium.

Some things never change. Sehome baseball and Bellingham Bells coach Gary Hatch has a story to prove it.

He received a call from a coach on Hawaii Pacific University's staff three weeks into Albert's first season.

"He said 'Hatcher, I got to share this with you,'" said Hatch of his conversation with the HPU coach. "We had our two weeks of get to know each other and kind of working out, then I gave the guys a week off. I go to the other side of the island in Oahu there.' By car it's like 60 minutes. He said, 'My family is up on this restaurant looking down on the beach and this kid comes driving up on a bike, parks it and is just kind of in the water doing Hacky Sack, just laying in the sun, just hanging out.' He goes to his kids, 'Doesn't that look like Albert to you?' 'Yeah, that is, that's John.' Sure enough, he had ridden his bike all the way from one side of the island to the other side."

Albert's personality hasn't changed since Hatch last coached him during 2008-11 at Sehome, as well as a short stint with the Bells last summer. He's still the same team-first, mature, talented player Hatch remembers him as.

As far as absolute pitching dominance goes, Albert may not be entirely the same as fans last remember him. Then again, there is a world of difference between prep and collegiate baseball, and Albert knows that as well as anyone.

"Right away I realized how different (college) was from high school," said Albert, who served as Hawaii Pacific's third starter his freshman year. "In high school all these guys were the No. 3 hitter. All these guys were the starting pitcher. All these guys were the all-stars at their high school, so when you go out here, you're not the top dog anymore. It's humbling to play with such great players, and it makes you want to work harder."

If anybody knows a thing or two about hard work, it's Albert.

He, like many of the talents on the 2013 Bellingham Bells' roster, is using his summer to continue honing his skills while trying to help bring a West Coast League Championship to Bellingham. The Bells open their season with a six-game road trip starting with the season opener against Medford at 6:35 p.m. Wednesday, June 5, in Oregon. Bellingham's home opener is against Wenatchee at 7:05 p.m. Wednesday, June 12, at Joe Martin Stadium.

Still Albert has enjoyed success during his first two years on the big island. He put together a 6-7 season with a 4.72 ERA and threw six complete games as a true freshman. Last year, Albert was moved to the bullpen where he earned a 4-0 record with a 4.88 ERA as a middle reliever.

Albert, who was a 10-day contract player last year with Bellingham, is hoping a full summer with Bells pitching coach Jim Clem will further prepare him for next year. Hatch is certainly thrilled to see an old face back in his rotation.

"It's nice to have John back, because No. 1 he played for me," Hatch said. "He knows my language, so I use him for a lot of demonstration stuff. He's a great kid, and he's doing fine at Hawaii Pacific."

Hatch compared Albert's style with longtime Atlanta Braves pitcher Greg Maddux.

"He has impeccable control," he said of Albert. "He can spot balls up. He's competitive as heck, and he's a very good athlete. He's got a fast ball, two seamer, four seamer, he has a knuckle curve. It's nasty. That was his out pitch in high school, and he has a change up. He's not a power guy, but a finesse guy."

Whether Albert will be used as a starter or reliever hasn't been decided yet, Hatch said, but the coach knows his former high school player will be a strong addition to the club during the Bells' quest to follow up on last year's playoff run.

Bellingham finished 2012 second in the East Division with a 32-22 record. The Bells suffered a Game 3 loss to Wenatchee in a three-game series in the WCL semifinals. Wenatchee went on to win the title.

Even though every year brings heavy roster turnover, Hatch believes a buzz of success is beginning to build within Bellingham's organization.

"I think the Bellingham Bells are getting that caliber of player, because the coaches are recognizing us, saying, 'Here's an organization that has their sugar together. Here's a coaching staff that's working together.'"

Hatch also praised Clem for the time he's spent putting the roster together, the work of general manager Nick Caples and the passion and dedication team owner Eddie Poplawski displays while improving the club.

Besides Albert, Hatch said fan-favorite and 2012 RBI leader Johnny Farrington is back this year. Some others to watch are Michael Annunziata, who is Farrington's teammate at Biola and can play almost anywhere, infielder Eric Angerer and pitcher Nick Baker as well as Oakland University pitchers Chris Van Dyke and Jake Paulson.

The Bells have brought in players from all corners of the country, from Hawaii, to Michigan, to Maine to Southern California and even Georgia. All will be looking to contribute to a successful 2013.

Reach Andrew Lang at andrew.lang@bellinghamherald.com or call 360-756-2862.

2013 BELLINGHAM BELLS SCHEDULE

Date Opponent Time

June 5 at Medford 6:35 p.m.

June 6 at Medford 6:35 p.m.

June 7 at Medford 7:35 p.m.

June 8 at Klamath Falls 6:35 p.m.

June 9 at Klamath Falls 5:05 p.m.

June 10 at Klamath Falls 6:35 p.m.

June 12 Wenatchee 7:05 p.m.

June 13 Wenatchee 7:05 p.m.

June 14 Wenatchee 7:05 p.m.

June 15 Everett 7:05 p.m.

June 18 Victoria 7:05 p.m.

June 19 Victoria 7:05 p.m.

June 20 Victoria 7:05 p.m.

June 21 Kelowna 7:05 p.m.

June 22 Kelowna 7:05 p.m.

June 23 Kelowna 3:05 p.m.

June 24 at Kitsap 6:35 p.m.

June 25 at Kitsap 6:35 p.m.

June 26 at Kitsap 6:35 p.m.

June 27 Walla Walla 7:05 p.m.

June 28 Walla Walla 7:05 p.m.

June 29 Walla Walla 7:05 p.m.

July 2 at Corvallis 6:40 p.m.

July 3 at Corvallis 7:15 p.m.

July 4 at Corvallis 6:05 p.m.

July 5 Cowlitz 7:05 p.m.

July 6 Cowlitz 7:05 p.m.

July 7 Cowlitz 3:05 p.m.

July 8 Kitsap 7:05 p.m.

July 9 Kitsap 7:05 p.m.

July 10 Kitsap 7:05 p.m.

July 12 at Cowlitz 6:35 p.m.

July 13 at Cowlitz 6:35 p.m.

July 14 at Cowlitz 5:05 p.m.

July 15 Corvallis 7:05 p.m.

July 16 Corvallis 7:05 p.m.

July 17 Corvallis 7:05 p.m.

July 19 at Walla Walla 7:05 p.m.

July 20 at Walla Walla 7:05 p.m.

July 21 at Walla Walla 5:05 p.m.

July 24 at Wenatchee 7:05 p.m.

July 25 at Wenatchee 7:05 p.m.

July 26 at Wenatchee 7:05 p.m.

July 27 at Kelowna 6:35 p.m.

July 28 at Kelowna 5:05 p.m.

July 29 at Kelowna 6:35 p.m.

July 30 Medford 7:05 p.m.

July 31 Medford 7:05 p.m.

Aug. 1 Medford 7:05 p.m.

Aug. 2 Bend 7:05 p.m.

Aug. 3 Bend 7:05 p.m.

Aug. 4 Bend 3:05 p.m.

Aug. 6 San Francisco 7:05 p.m.

Aug. 7 San Francisco 7:05 p.m.

Aug. 9 at Victoria 7:05 p.m.

Aug. 10 at Victoria 7:05 p.m.

Aug. 11 at Victoria 1:05 p.m.

2013 BELLINGHAM BELLS ROSTER

Pitchers

Player Ht. Wgt. Bats Throws College

John Albert 6-2 195 R R Hawaii Pacific

Nick Baker 6-2 190 R R N/A

Matt Bower 6-5 185 L L Washington State

Ian Buckles 6-0 225 R R George Fox

Nate Cole 6-2 235 R R Cisco JC

Will Dennis 6-2 189 L L Seattle U

Jake Ehret 6-3 175 R R UCLA

Jason Hager 6-1 165 L L Oakland

Marc Huberman 6-2 180 L L USC

Steven Leverett 5-10 155 R R Skagit Valley CC

Luke Morrill 6-5 215 L R Maine

Andrew Olson 6-1 205 L L Seattle U

Jake Paulson 6-6 210 R R Oakland

Jacob Phillips 6-0 185 R R Campbellsville

Chase Radan 6-3 175 R R UCLA

Michael Rucker 6-0 185 R R BYU

Aaron Sandefur 6-3 205 R R Bellevue CC

Chris Van Dyke 6-3 210 R R Oakland

Catchers

Player Ht. Wgt. Bats Throws College

Mike Connolly 6-0 175 R R Maine

Arden Pabst 6-0 205 R R Georgia Tech

RJ Ybarra 6-0 225 R R Arizona State

Infielders

Player Ht. Wgt. Bats Throws College

Eric Angerer 6-1 200 R L N/A

Michael Annunziata 5-11 200 S R Biola

Alex Calbick 6-0 190 L R Maine

Trent Chatterton 5-10 160 R R UCLA

Johnny Farrington 5-5 145 S R Biola

Ryan Malone 6-0 190 R R Bellevue CC

Riley Smith 6-2 190 R R Occidental

Ryan Yamane 5-10 150 L R Northern Colorado

Outfielders

Player Ht. Wgt. Bats Throws College

Nate Anderson 6-1 165 R R Bellevue CC

Derek Atkinson 5-11 185 L R San Francisco

Christopher Beall 6-2 205 L L Arizona State

Ryan Kirby 6-2 175 L R San Diego

Jack Meggs 6-1 160 L L Washington

Walker Olis 6-2 175 R R Pacific

Johnny Sewald 5-11 155 R R Arizona State

Reach ANDREW LANG at andrew.lang@bellinghamherald.com or call ext. 862.

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