West Coast League returns to Clark County after one long year
Greg and Linda Silva were among the first fans to arrive at the Ridgefield Outdoor Recreation Complex on Wednesday, proudly wearing their Raptors T-shirts, ready to watch some baseball.
“I’m happy they were able to open it up and get this going,” Greg Silva said. “We really missed it from last year.”
“It’s always good baseball, fun to watch,” Linda said. “The last season we were here, the group was the nicest guys. We have grandkids, and they have a ball when they come out.”
Sometimes it is the whole family, and sometimes it is just couples night for the Silvas. But every night, if the Raptors are in town, is a baseball night.
“We caught them all,” Greg said of the 2019 home schedule.
Yes, every game.
Which is why having no season last year means so much this year.
“We just vegetated in our house,” Linda said.
No more of that. It’s time to get out. It’s time for baseball.
Don Stose, Ridgefield’s mayor, threw out the ceremonial first pitch Wednesday, just like he did in 2019 when the city and county welcomed the Raptors, a West Coast League wood-bat franchise featuring college-eligible players.
“It means a lot not only to the city of Ridgefield, but for the citizens,” Stose said of the return of the Raptors. “It’s about getting citizens out, getting some fresh air, and enjoying some baseball. We have pent-up demand. People are ready to watch college-level baseball.”
The Raptors estimated around 800 people showed up Wednesday for the Raptors game against the Cowlitz Black Bears. Gus Farah, the general manager, said that in theory, the team can host around 1,400 people under state protocols. But honestly, he said, the Raptors did not want that many, not in the first game at least. Employees and fans are all trying to figure out how to handle the procedures. There were sections for those who are vaccinated and those who are not.
“Our partnership from Day One has literally been the best,” Stose said. “The Raptors have brought a professional sporting event to Ridgefield, the first professional sporting event.”
The players are not professional, of course. They maintain their amateur status with their college eligibility. Stose was talking about the relationship between the franchise and the community.
“It’s a first-class organization. They do everything the right way,” Stose said. “Just a pleasure to have them.”
John Peck III and Jill Peck drove 15 hours to watch the Raptors on Wednesday. Must be huge fans, right? Or, at least fans of No. 6, John Peck IV.
Their son was originally going to play for the Edmonton Riverhawks. But Canada’s COVID procedures made that impossible. John Peck IV plays for Pepperdine. His coaches made some calls, and he was assigned to the Raptors.
The Pecks are from Moorpark, Calif., about 980 miles from the RORC. They took their son to his host family, and they have enjoyed looking around Clark County.
“It’s gorgeous,” Jill said.
They expect to come to Clark County several times this summer. For Father’s Day. For John’s birthday. Other occasions perhaps. But they will be flying in on the next trip.
Kelli Darcy drove from Kent, Her son Kody, who plays for Xavier University, is in his first season with the Raptors. He played for Wenatchee in 2019.
“It’s a great league,” Kelli Darcy said of the WCL. “They play a lot of games.”
Wednesday’s opener, technically, was not a league game. But it was the first of seven games this season between the Raptors and the Black Bears. The winner of the season series will take home the Columbia Cup, a new prize this year to stoke the fire of this rivalry. The two teams are 30 miles from one another.
Both mascots, Rally the Raptor and Corby the Bear, were at the RORC on Wednesday. Neither says a whole lot, but Corby got the last laugh in Game 1 of this series. The Bears scored seven runs in the eighth inning to secure a 10-8 victory.
The Raptors had a few highlights of their own, though. Dominic Enbody, who hit the first home run in Raptors history back in 2019, drove in the team’s first run of 2021 in the first inning.
And in the fourth inning, a local player hit a two-run single as part of a four-run frame.
“I had some people calling my name, people I knew,” said Tanner Jacques, a former Skyview High school standout who plays at Linfield now. “It’s a sentimental factor. You know a lot of people here, so it’s cool to see.”
After enduring the last year, playing baseball in front of any spectators is special these days.
“It’s really cool, especially being here with so many fans,” Jacques said. “Whether they’re chirping or cheering, it’s exciting either way.”
Ryan Pitts, a Skyview grad who plays at Lower Columbia College, pitched the first two innings for the Raptors. He struck out two.
Nick Nygard, a Columbia River graduate who plays at the University of Portland, struck out the side in the ninth inning.