May 20—SUMNER — Angie Mentink can’t help but laugh when she talks about her family’s group text message thread. It includes everyone from the grandparents down to the high school and middle-school aged grandkids. It’s filled with mostly goofy stuff — jokes, memes, some lighthearted smack talk. Her nephew, in middle school, joked the other day that he was pregnant, much to the amusement of the entire family (he’s feeling fine and excited about the pregnancy, by the way).
“The smack talking back and forth is legendary,” Mentink said.
In this sports and baseball-obsessed family, you might think things are constantly competitive and cutthroat, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The family dynamic is loving, supportive, humorous. Sports are what bind the family together, but they’re not the end-all be-all for the Mentinks.
Baseball fans around the Pacific Northwest likely know who Angie Mentink is. Flip on a Seattle Mariners game and you’ll see her, breaking down the game or giving a mid-inning report on the story of the day on the ROOT Sports television broadcast. That’s only one of the hats she wears, though. The other: supportive mom and the biggest cheerleader for the Sumner High School baseball team.
Angie’s son, Jaxen, is a sophomore catcher for the Spartans. Her brother-in-law, Justin Mentink, is an assistant coach on Casey Adcox’s staff. Justin’s son (and Angie’s nephew) Jay, is a junior center fielder at Sumner.
On and off the field, the family is close. Literally. Angie and her husband Jarrett — who coached basketball at Todd Beamer High School in Federal Way when the school opened and now works as a professor at Seattle Pacific University — live just two doors down from Justin and his wife, Rachelle.
“I actually thought it might be too close,” Justin said, laughing. “But it’s been great.”
Justin played college baseball for Washington State back in the day and has been a head coach at the high school level, previously coaching at Auburn High School. Angie, meanwhile, enjoyed a highly-decorated career at the UW, where she played softball. She became the first player in program history to earn All-Pac-10 and All-American honors. She was the first softball player inducted into the Husky Hall of Fame, in 2001. Her husband Jarrett has no shortage of sports and coaching knowledge, either. In addition to coaching at Todd Beamer, he has coached men’s basketball at Seattle Pacific since 1995, in various capacities. He had coaching stops at Decatur High School and Tacoma Community College, as well.
That’s a lot of sports knowledge for Jay and Jaxen (and their siblings) to soak up.
“It’s a big baseball family with a big tradition,” said Sumner baseball coach Casey Adcox. “It’s a pretty big pedigree.”
It always comes back to baseball. After the drive home from Seattle after a 4 pm Mariners game this week, Angie had time to throw a batting practice session to Jaxen.
“It’s been kind of crazy,” Jaxen said of his baseball-crazed family. “It’s really nice, having my parents be involved with it.
“They semi know what they’re talking about,” he joked. “I enjoy the sport, I love the sport and they also have that same kind of love for the game. …Having her as my No. 1 coach, she’s taught me everything I know. So I can thank all my success to her.”
The cousins are similar in their competitive drive and talent level, but different in other ways. Jay is a bit more introverted. His long, dark brown, curly hair passes the Sumner vibe check popularized by longtime eccentric football coach Keith Ross. He’s also a star safety for the football team, a Princeton baseball/football commit and a stellar tenor for the Sumner choir. He does yoga and meditates every morning, and it translates to the batter’s box.
“The moment is never too big for Jay,” Adcox said. “The bigger the games get, the more you just see he’s operating at a different wavelength than other kids.”
Jay is batting .348 on the season with two home runs, two triples and five doubles. He’s enjoying playing with his cousin, Jaxen, who has a more gregarious, outgoing personality: the life of the party, flashing a wide grin and cracking jokes. He rides shotgun with Jay to school every day.
“I mean, Jaxen is pretty annoying, taking him to school every day, he leaves a bunch of crap in my car,” Jay joked. “But both of us being out there and having our family members come to games, traveling from California, it’s been pretty cool. It’s a great opportunity.”
Consider the mutual feeling for Jaxen, who’s batting .365 with a pair of home runs and two doubles. Behind the dish, he has a cannon for an arm, throwing out nine of the 14 opposing players who dared attempt to steal a base against him.
“It’s a dream come true,” Jaxen said. “I’ve always wanted to play with Jay ever since I was young. Actually being able to do it has been a blast beyond compare.”
And for their families, seeing their kids suit up in the purple and gold together has been one of life’s greatest joys.
“It’s great for my parents probably more than anything,” Justin said. “To have them all in one spot has been great.”
If she’s not there in person, Angie is constantly keeping tabs on Sumner’s games, even if she’s working a Mariners game. She passes along her knowledge of the game to Jaxen daily, but there’s never any pressure or unrealistic expectations set. Whether Jaxen goes 4-for-4 at the plate, or 0-for-4, she’s there to tell him she loves him.
“We’re very adamant that there’s nothing that happens in sports that can’t be fixed with a Dairy Queen blizzard,” she said. “I just think it’s the biggest tragedy that parents do, is to keep crazy expectations or pressure on kids. Our No. 1 goal as sports parents should really just be to take the pressure off them. … We constantly tell them after games , ‘Hey, we love watching you play.’ That’s really all we want them to hear, is that message.”
Sumner opens the Class 4A state tournament on the road against Kamiakin at County Stadium at 10 am on Saturday.
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