Season ends with a playoff loss, but a huge crowd showed up to show their love for the Raptors
RIDGEFIELD — Judging from T-shirt sales Wednesday night, the Ridgefield Raptors are too popular.
That’s right, the Raptors ran out of many sizes of their first-ever playoff T-shirts. Raptor employees were taking down names and addresses so they could send the shirts to the fans at a later date.
No, this is not the first time the Raptors have made the West Coast League playoffs. But it was the first time the Clark County-based summer league baseball team could prepare for playoff merchandise.
Last year, the team made the playoffs on the final weekend of the regular season. This year, the Raptors knew weeks in advance they were in the postseason.
So T-shirts were ordered.
Demand, however, overtook supply.
“We didn’t know how many to make,” said Gus Farah, the general manager of the Raptors, who noted the team also had a package deal of buying a playoff ticket and a T-shirt at the same time. “We sold more than we thought we would. We didn’t have a whole lot of extra T-shirts today. We’ll have to mail them. It could be worse.”
Yes, it is a good thing when the brand is in demand.
And now, that brand is saying goodbye to 2023 and looking forward to 2024.
The Ridgefield Raptors 2023 baseball season has come to an end. The Portland Pickles rallied from a six-run deficit to beat the Raptors 10-6 on Wednesday, claiming the best-of-three series in two games.
Still, for the second year in a row, the Raptors made the playoffs. And this time, their fans will get a little something to remember that accomplishment, even if many will have to wait another week or so until the shirts are shipped to them.
“They think they’re cool, and they’re excited,” said Aiden Dennis, one of the employees working the merchandise store, talking about the fans’ reaction to seeing the shirts.
Those fans would have loved to have had at least one more home playoff game. Had the Raptors won Wednesday, there would have been another game on Thursday. Alas, it did not happen for the home team.
Still, the home crowd appreciated the effort. Not just Wednesday, but all season.
Of the 31 home dates, James and Biff Bouchard of Ridgefield came to 26 games at the Ridgefield Outdoor Recreation Complex. The married couple also attended a few road games, including Tuesday’s playoff opener in Portland.
“It’s so close to home. It’s great entertainment. The cost makes it really nice,” James said of the benefits of being a Raptors season ticket holder.. “We can sit here and enjoy our night at next-to-nothing cost. We love it. We love it. That’s why we keep coming back.”
They are more-than-satisfied customers in the Raptors’ family of fans.
“I’m happy. I’m happy. I’m unhappy that the year is over, but I’m happy,” Biff said.
Farah said that more than 2,000 fans showed up Wednesday night, the largest crowd of the season.
“It feels good that we’ve grown this,” he said. “Yes, it’s about the wins and the losses, but it’s also about the community feeling of being here and just having a good night out, an affordable night out.”
Those in uniform appreciate the love, too.
“This whole summer, it’s been the biggest crowds I’ve ever played in front of,” said Eastyn Culp, a former Heritage High School standout. “It’s a really fun atmosphere to play in.”
Culp will have another summer of eligibility next year. He said he would love to return to the Raptors for a third season.
“It’s so cool, just being 20 minutes away from home when I know some guys who are 20-plus hours away from home,” Culp said. “It’s so cool to see my parents, every time I pitch, in the stands.”
Head coach Chris Cota continues to be impressed with the relationship between the Raptors and Southwest Washington. He has been the team’s only coach, with the Raptors debuting in 2019.
“What a great, great support system we have here,” Cota said. “As upsetting as the final last couple of games were, what another special summer up here. The fans, the community … they just accept these kids every summer. Makes it pretty special.”
Just after the final out of the season was recorded Wednesday, the team gathered together one final time on the field at The RORC. Jason Krohn, director of operations for the team, addressed the players.
“We thanked them for all of their time here,” Krohn said. “Some of these guys have been multiple-year Raptors. These guys are standing here on the last day, and you have to tip your hat to them.
“They’ve been great for the community this year. We haven’t had issues with any of these guys. They’ve been upstanding. Really, just thanking them for all of that.”
As soon as that meeting broke up, youngsters were allowed on the field to take pictures and get autographs from the Raptors one final time in 2023.
A playoff year.
A strong relationship with the community.
That’s a win-win for the 2023 Ridgefield Raptors.
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