A Whittie on the Walla Walla Sweets



Garrett Atkinson. Photo by Matt Banderas, Contributed by Katie Biagi

Quinn Salkind, Sports Writer

As he finished up his Junior year, Garrett Atkinson (’17) went into the summer preparing for a business internship with the Walla Walla Sweets Baseball Club. What he did not expect was to be playing for the team himself. As it turned out, the Sweets were in need of left handed pitchers at the start of the season, since several players on the Sweets roster were still competing in NCAA regionals.

“I wasn’t originally planning on playing baseball over the summer,” said Atkinson. “But coach Kitamura reached out to me and said they were looking for…pitching from the left and … recommended I do it.” Atkinson signed a 10 day contract to play for the team before his internship got into full swing, becoming the first person to do both for the club.
Atkinson, who joined the team as a relief pitcher, was intended to be a specialist for facing left-handed hitters. He ended up filling a different role, as he pitched several innings of relief in two of his three games for the team.
The highlight of his experience was pitching three scoreless innings on the team’s opening night. Although scoreless, his outing was far from easy. “I came in with the game tied 1-1 in the top of the fifth with a runner on third and two outs,” Atkinson said. After getting out of this jam, in the next inning Atkinson walked the bases loaded before getting the third out. “I hadn’t even watched a Sweets game before, it was my first time being at a game,” Atkinson said.

Garrett Atkinson, above, throws a pitch for the Walla Walla Sweets. Photo by Matt Banderas, Contributed by Katie Biagi
Garrett Atkinson, above, throws a pitch for the Walla Walla Sweets. Photo by Matt Banderas, Contributed by Katie Biagi

Atkinson finished his short stint with 6.0 Innings Pitched, giving up only one earned run for an ERA of 1.50. Compared to his experience playing for the Whitman baseball team, Atkinson said “the game moves a little faster, the guys throw harder, hitters [have] a little bit more power–it’s not all that different.” His experience playing Division I baseball for the University of Dayton his freshman year, however, may have helped him make the adjustment. The majority of the sweets roster consisted of Division I players from the PAC-12 or West Coast Conference. These players are from all over the coast and live with host families over the summer, since they cannot be paid without forfeiting their NCAA eligibility.

As an intern, Atkinson was involved in ticket sales, marketing and setting up for games. Combined with his role as a player, Atkinson “really got to see everything come together.” He also had the chance to make new adjustments in his pitching approach. Over the past school year, he relied on a sweeping breaking ball against right-handed hitters. “This summer I basically threw all fastballs to right handed hitters,” Atkinson said. The experience allowed him to focus on “throwing strikes with the fastball” and mixing up his “location in the zone,” allowing him to grow as a pitcher.

The Walla Walla Sweets finished their season in early August with a winning record of 30-24, and Atkinson was fortunate enough to play a role in this success. Atkinson will be returning to the Whitman baseball team for his senior season and is looking forward to utilizing the skills learned over the summer in his final season on the mound at Borleske Stadium.