Ridgefield’s new baseball team’s employees get training for Opening Day
RIDGEFIELD — The new baseball team in Ridgefield wants to be more than just a baseball team for Ridgefield.
This can be a team for the county, and it starts with having a relationship with the county’s baseball community.
Less than a week before the inaugural season begins, the Raptors welcomed the Southwest Washington Senior All-Star Games to the Ridgefield Outdoor Recreation Complex (RORC). The doubleheader, featuring more than 40 high school seniors from the region, had previously been held at Propstra Stadium in Vancouver.
“Personally, this is important to me and to the organization,” said Gus Farah, the general manager of the Raptors. “We support the youth. For us to be part of it is really fantastic.”
Farah said that in the past, the all-star game was run by area coaches. The Raptors said they could manage the game-day details at the RORC.
Call it a win-win.
Wednesday night, after all, was not just a final showcase for the high school players. It was a training day of sorts for the Raptors, a new franchise in the West Coast League.
“Let us run it,” Farah said. “It will be really good for them, and great for us.”
With two games Wednesday, Farah and his managers were able to train dozens of customer service employees, giving them a “feel” for game day, with a real crowd at a new stadium.
So new, in fact, that the bleachers down the first- and third-base lines are not yet finished. No worries. The plan is for those to be in place before Opening Night on Tue. June 4.
There were quirks, of course. But better now than Tuesday, Farah said.
Oh sure, there will be miscues then, too, but this was the first true “practice” for the organization.
The West Coast League, which began in 2005, now has 12 teams of college-eligible players. The Raptors hope to attract fans from all over Clark County. They expect a huge crowd for Tuesday’s opener, which will also include a post-game fireworks show.
Any preparation for that big night is a bonus.
“There have been so many months of leading up to what we think it’s going to be. Now we have a look at what our park is,” said Jason Krohn, the director of operations for the Raptors.
He gave a tour of the facility with new employees — ushers, ticket holders, and the like.
“There are a lot of hands that go into making this thing happen,” Krohn said.
He likes the mix in ages of employees. There are retirees who enjoy baseball and being at the park, there are college students who are home for the summer, and high school students who are looking for some work experience.
It was also a prep day for the public announcer as well as the radio team.
Mike McCarthy has the booming voice all stadiums need. (By the way, the sound system at the RORC is excellent.)
“I’ve got 40 years on the radio. The only thing I do right is ad-lib,” McCarthy said with a laugh.
Korey Kier, longtime assistant baseball coach at Columbia River High School, is the analyst for the radio team, led by play-by-play man Bryan Sleik. Wednesday was the first time the two have been “on the air” together.”
By air, we mean streaming. All Raptors games can be heard over the internet via the Raptors website.
“I love Clark County baseball, and I’m excited about this new franchise,” Kier said. “My aspiration was to do radio when I was younger. This is a nice opportunity.”
While Kier will not be available for every game, Sleik expects to be at every game, home and away, as the voice of the Raptors.
Sleik, a Central Michigan graduate, had worked in the West Coast League before and was looking to get back to the league. When he saw the league was expanding to Ridgefield, he called Farah to see about the job. A few months later, he got the job.
With less than a week to go, the Raptors are putting the finishing touches at the stadium. Some sponsor signs have been installed, but many, many more are going up by Tuesday.
“It’s starting to look like a real ballpark now,” Farah said. “We’ll have 35 sponsors this first year. That’s a lot of trust in what our vision is.”
Farah said the organization has been trying to build a brand since the announcement of the new franchise.
Wednesday, he said, felt like the “brand really does exist now in Southwest Washington.”