Safety protocols will be in place, but Ridgefield team expects hundreds of fans to be allowed at the RORC
The return of sports in Washington should soon mean the return of West Coast League baseball in Clark County.
The Ridgefield Raptors have plans in place to welcome back players, coaches, and fans to the Ridgefield Outdoor Recreation Complex. Opening night is June 2.
The push is on to get the message out for fans to buy tickets early.
“Right now we’re approved for around 700 fans, 25 percent of the park,” said Gus Farah, the general manager of the Raptors. “We’re hopeful we might be going to 50 percent soon, but we don’t want to predict that. Right now, we’re allowed to have around 700 fans.”
The Raptors have a solid season ticket base, Farah said, so he and his staff are asking others to make their plans soon. At 700 capacity, there will be plenty of games when there will be no tickets available on game day.
“It’s just a reality so we don’t disappoint people,” Farah said of the marketing campaign to buy now, not later.
The best news out of the Raptors world, Farah said, is everything looks good leading up to the team’s second season.
“We had come off such great momentum in 2019,” Farah said. “We’re still building a brand in Southwest Washington and we wanted to continue that expansion of the fan building. We closed the park down in August after the (2019) season, and it was kind of a lovefest. The fans liked it. We loved it. And everybody was ready for Year 2.”
Nobody knew then that Year 2 would actually start in Year 3.
The winter and early spring of 2020 was brutal for the Raptors and the West Coast League. It was pause and start and pause and start. Remember, at the beginning of the pandemic, it was sold to the public that society would only shut down temporarily, to flatten the curve.
That was quite the curve ball for a league that does not start until June. Because in March and April of 2020, there was still hope for a season for the wood bat league. Then there was a delay to the start of the season. Another delay. And then, it was called off.
“Emotionally, it was tough,” Farah said. “While we were in the middle of not knowing, it was just really difficult.”
The Raptors furloughed most of their employees for 90 days. Farah said the goal was to bring them back on Sept. 15, and he is proud to say that is what happened.
“These are employees who really make this go for us,” he said.
Now, with sports back in the state — the Mariners are allowed to have a limited number of fans and high school athletics also now has a number of spectators — the Raptors are moving forward with an adjusted WCL schedule.
The league for players with college eligibility has 10 American teams and five Canadian teams. The league recently announced that there would be no international games this summer. The border remains closed, for the most part.
In all, the Raptors have 33 home dates on their schedule. The team has signed 35 players, including a handful with Clark County ties.
“We always want to make sure we’re taking care of and getting the local kids,” Farah said. “It’s good for the fans, it’s good for the players and their families, and it’s good for the schools that they went to in high school. They love that. And there’s a lot of talent here.”
For the many more who are not from Clark County, West Coast League teams rely on host families, folks who open their homes for a couple of months to allow the players to live with them.
That has been a challenge with COVID regulations, as well. Farah said he appreciates the patience from the host families as the league tries to figure out all the policies.
“We can’t do this without them. Host families are one of those legs on a barstool that without it we just can’t operate,” Farah said. “They’ve hung in there with us. They’re excited.”
The dugout staff from 2019 is coming back, as well. Chris Cota is the head coach. Rob Paramo and Ridgefield High School head coach Nick Allen are set to return as assistants.
Fans at the games should expect similar measures to what is going on in everyday life now.
“We don’t know them all yet,” Farah said of the regulations. “What we know is we will be following state guidelines. You’re going to see masks. People ask me that all the time, and I just don’t see how that’s not going to happen. You’re going to see distancing. You’re going to see the state guidelines in place.”
Something new for fans is the Raptors have partnered with FanFood, a digital ordering app. Fans will be able to order their food from anywhere in the stadium. They will get a notification when the order is ready, and a window for them to pick up the order. Farah said that will mean less people congregating around the concessions.
“You’re going to see a strict COVID plan that has to be in place, but you’re also going to see us try to be creative,” Farah said.
The biggest thing fans will see, Farah noted, is baseball.
After a summer of nothing at the RORC, the Ridgefield Raptors are poised to make a comeback.
Note: For ticket information, go to https://ridgefieldraptors.com/