Wood-bat league team based in Clark County averaged 1,290 fans a game last year
With about three weeks to go before opening night for the Ridgefield Raptors, Gus Farah is finalizing plans to make 2023 another memorable baseball season.
“This little love affair with this community continues to grow every year,” said Farah, the general manager of the Raptors. “As long as we run it the way we want to run it, with quality and respect, that’s what this fan base expects from us.”
The fans must appreciate what they have been witnessing. Farah said that 95 percent of season ticket holders renewed for this summer, a big number in the West Coast League.
The Raptors, and other members of the WCL, put on a summer schedule for athletes with college eligibility, playing roughly 60 games in a wood bat league. Today, the WCL has 16 teams from Washington, Oregon, and Canada.
The Raptors debuted in 2019. They endured the pandemic, and the cancellation of the 2020 season, and enjoyed a stellar 2022 summer. The team averaged close to 1,300 fans a game last season, Farah said.
Opening night for 2023 will be June 1 against rival Cowlitz.
Fans will see new things at the park, and there will be a new way in how the games are regulated.
No, it’s not a pitch clock. Instead, the WCL describes it as an “action clock” that will be in use for games. Farah said it is similar to the NCAA rules on pace of play.
“The hitter needs to get in the box. The pitcher needs to acknowledge the hitter is in the box, and throw the ball,” Farah said. “It’s 20 seconds.”
There won’t be an active clock for fans to see. The time will be kept by one of the umpires.
Still, it will be a big change.
Farah acknowledged some fans won’t like the change, but it is the trend in baseball to speed things up in a world with a shorter attention span.
“We don’t want two-hour games, but we also don’t want four-hour games,” Farah said. “There were times when these games would take a long, long time.”
Farah said there are plenty of ways to trim the edges off of how much time a game takes. He just hopes this “action clock” doesn’t take too much time off of games, which would mean a shorter game-day experience for fans.
“The traditionalists don’t like it. They want baseball as a game at its own pace,” Farah said. “Then there are some families who think the game drags on too long.”
The West Coast League is trying to find a balance.
“I don’t know what the right answer is, but I don’t want a two-hour game,” Farah said. “I want to serve people food, and I want to serve them beverages, and I want to give them time to enjoy it.”
As far as in-game, in-between-innings entertainment, Farah said the Raptors will still have plenty of contests, games for fans to enjoy. The WCL is limiting time between innings, as well, but there will be time for the features that fans have come to enjoy.
As far as enjoying food, there will be a new option at the Ridgefield Outdoor Recreation Complex. The Raptors have plans for a food truck to be stationed beyond left field. That truck will have things such as tater tots, corn dogs, and fried Oreos.
Yes. Fried. Oreos.
Farah wants to take some of the pressure off the main concession stand. When the RORC has a big crowd, that concession area can become extremely crowded.
Also new, a storage unit that has been converted into a store for more Raptors merchandise.
For those who watch Raptors games on YouTube, a new camera has been installed, giving fans two angles instead of one.
Game times for most days will be 6:35 p.m. The Sunday games will start at 1:05 p.m. And new this year, gates will open 30 minutes before first pitch, rather than 60 minutes. Farah said the gates might open earlier for special event nights.
Farah is looking forward to welcoming the 2023 Raptors to Ridgefield. A handful of players are expected to return. Farah said the players on previous teams told him that they loved their time in Clark County.
“They love the community. They love Ridgefield,” Farah said. “To me, it’s like the country in a city setting.”
And this small, big community is ready to welcome another season of baseball at the RORC.
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