From Sandlot to Shore: Sharyland baseball coach saves local sea turtles

Local Sports

SHARYLAND (KVEO) – On your average day during baseball season, you can find Sharyland head coach Bart Bickerton either at the sandlot, or on the water.

His love for the game, and his love for fishing off the shore at his Port Isabel house, go hand and hand.

So, when the island community needed his help this last week, it was a no brainer that he’d be stepping up.

“It feels good to help out because I’m a big time fisherman,” said Bickerton. “I live down there, have a boat and everything else and i see them [sea turtles] every time I go out so it feels good to know that even at least a few of them are gonna be saved.”

The Rio Grande Valley, along with the majority of the state of Texas, saw shockingly bitter temperatures this week. Temperatures so abnormal, and so cold, that thousands of sea turtles at South Padre Island were cold-stunned. This forced the turtles to go into a state of shock, shut down, and become beached.

“We had seen some of the other people rescuing turtles so we were like ‘well, we’ll go check our shoreline,'” said Bickerton. “We were hoping we wouldn’t see any and of course as soon as we went down there we saw at least probably ten or so.”

When they arrived at their house and checked the 200 yards of shoreline for the turtles, Bickerton, his wife, and his sister-in-law immediately sprung into action. None of them knew much of anything about saving sea turtles, they just knew they had to help.

“We knew we needed to get them out and get them to a warm place as soon as possible. So, it wasn’t a deal where we had any clue. Once I made several trips to the convention center they told us make sure you’re not touching them in certain spots and stuff like that,” said Bickerton.

With the crucial help of Sea Turtle Inc., winter Texans, fisherman and boating guides, and many other volunteers like Coach Bickerton and his family, over 5,000 sea turtles were pulled from frigid waters and taken to warm shelter.

“They were probably in about a foot of water and they had pretty much beached themselves. They were so stunned that they couldn’t move enough to get where they needed to go,” Bickerton said.

With the winter weather hopefully behind the RGV, sea turtles will soon be returned back to the waters.

The next time Coach Bickerton is out fishing on his boat and sees a sea turtle, it will be much more special to him.

“I know there was a lot of guides who went out, Sea turtle inc.,” said Bickerton. “The guides were bringing in 250-300 at a time in their boats and things like that and the winter texans helped me a lot. So, it was kind of a big effort by pretty much everybody.”

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