tukwila – For one sunny Tuesday morning, the Seattle Sounders became those other boys of summer.
Players arriving for training at Starfire Sports Complex were greeted by bats and balls and gloves, and they were paired off for a game of softball. The blue team won on a three-run home run by Kasey Keller, the goalkeeper from Olympia whose father was a top-tier fastpitch player.
“I just felt it was time to have some fun,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “I used to do it all the time when I was coaching the Galaxy. We’d just take a day, we’d go down to the beach and have a beach training day and have lunch, or I took them go-kart racing before and that was a blast. We used to go and do paintball all the time in Columbus.
“I think it’s good. We work hard enough. We work every day, and the guys put in the effort, so now they can play a little bit and have fun at the end of it.”
If that was the point: mission accomplished.
Assistant coaches Tom Dutra and Ezra Hendrickson chose up sides, and the players competed and celebrated and laughed on a training pitch adapted into a diamond.
In addition to Keller, who clinched his own win by tagging Hendrickson at the plate for the final out, some of the stars included Taylor Graham, Osvaldo Alonso, Fredy Montero, Terry Boss, Nate Jaqua and Roger Levesque.
The highlight was Graham hitting a pair of home runs – one-handed while protecting his fractured left hand.
“You could definitely tell who has played before and who hasn’t,” said Levesque, who was a high school star in baseball, basketball and soccer.
“... Definitely interesting out here seeing some of these guys swing a bat and knowing it’s something they’ve never done and their body doesn’t respond to.”
Leo Gonzalez had so much trouble catching with one glove, that by the end he was wearing two. And Steve Zakuani caught no end of grief for his throwing.
“Throw it with your strong hand,” Keller advised. “Sometimes it’s nice to switch hit and hit off the left side, but you probably don’t want to throw with your weak hand.”
The players agreed the change of pace came on a day when it was easy to smile. The Sounders are coming off their first win of the season and are 1-0-2 over their last three games.
The team also is getting healthier. Montero (wrist) has been cleared for training, although his status for the Saturday game in Philadelphia is uncertain. And Mike Fucito has recovered from his ankle sprain and is turning his attention to regaining fitness.
“It’s nice to get that home win the other day, and now we go onto the road,” Keller said.
“We had a lot of fun here playing a little softball. And now the guys are still out here just getting back to what we normally do and having a little (soccer) training session before we go up into the weight room.
“So there’s a lot of dedication on this team and a lot of guys who want to do very well. They thoroughly enjoyed the softball, but then it’s back to business.”
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808 twitter/donruiztnt blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer