Community turns game into a true playoff atmosphere
RIDGEFIELD — Coaches who have been with the Ridgefield Raptors from the beginning said it was the best crowd in franchise history.
The fans showed up at The RORC on Tuesday.
They were proud.
They were loud.
They cheered on Rally the mascot.
Then they cheered on the Raptors’ rally.
The Ridgefield Raptors scored three runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to take the lead, then held off the Portland Pickles for a 9-8 victory at the Ridgefield Outdoor Recreation Complex.
The Raptors, who made the West Coast League playoffs for the first time last year, now get to say they have won a playoff game.
The game itself, though, just might be secondary to the vibe surrounding this game.
More than 1,500 fans came out on a Tuesday night, and they were into every pitch, every call by the umpires, and then they really got into the final out of the game.
The players felt the energy, too.
When Riley McCarthy grew up in Vancouver playing baseball, he never dreamed of playing summer league baseball in Clark County. How could he? There was no such thing.
Well, on Tuesday, the Mountain View High School graduate and current University of Portland athlete, came through in the clutch with a run-scoring single during the winning Ridgefield rally.
“Baseball in Southwest Washington … it’s really special. Tonight is a special atmosphere,” McCarthy said. “I had my parents behind home plate. Getting the opportunity to play baseball near home this summer, play high-level baseball kind of right in my backyard in Ridgefield has been amazing.”
Gus Farah, the team’s general manager, was in awe of the crowd. He said it is tough to attract a crowd on a Tuesday, for a game that was not on the schedule. Yes, it was a playoff game, but that is no guarantee of a turnout.
In Ridgefield, there was a turnout. If you make the playoffs, they will come.
“We can measure the success in a lot of ways,” Farah said, noting the ticket sales or perhaps the concession sales.
But that is not what made The RORC magical on Tuesday.
“What I enjoy is the community gathering, and the atmosphere that just leads to success,” he said. “You felt it tonight. This was incredible.”
The buzz was apparent even before the first pitch at 6:35 p.m.
“The parking lot’s full. Game’s full,” said season ticket holder Tanya Persons.
“The. Best.” she added, emphasizing those two words when thinking about the Raptors in the playoffs.
“Ridgefield is a small community, and we come around anything and everything that happens here. When they announced this was happening, they let the community decide on the name for the team, which was huge. That brought everybody in,” Persons said.
Persons has had season tickets since the 2019 inaugural season. A home game really feels more like a home at The RORC.
“Doesn’t matter who you come with when you come because you’re going to see people you know,” Persons said. “I know everybody in my row, everybody around me. The city council’s here. The mayor’s here.”
Anyone who’s anyone, right?
Cheryl Monahan of Vancouver only missed two home games this season. The Raptors have played 32 games at The RORC in 2022.
“I didn’t want to, but I had to,” she said, making it clear that the Raptors are, for the most part, the priority.
“I love baseball,” she said. “It’s great to see all the young guys come out and play and feel like you are part of their family. It’s like a summer family.”
A stroll to one of the entry gates in the middle of the first inning, and one could see a line of people still waiting to get into the complex.
Overhead one side of a phone conversation, from a fan inside the park to a fan who was planning on showing up late. “Good luck finding parking. I think I parked illegally.”
Yes, people risked parking citations to get a good look at their team on Tuesday.
Woody Howard of Vancouver has watched a lot of Raptor games this season. His son, Tyler, is on the team.
“It’s been fun to see the community come support them,” Howard said, looking around at the crowd. “It’s packed.”
Ridgefield really has embraced the Raptors.
“It’s turning into a very nice community event,” Howard said. You’re seeing longtime Ridgefield community members and folks who just moved here come out and mingle, support the team. The players have done a really good job with the young fans, supporting baseball and growing the game.”
In fact, after Tuesday’s thrilling win, youngsters were once again allowed on the field to run the bases. Many of the children chose, instead, to go say hello to the players. The players signed autographs.
Was this the last Raptors home game of the season? We’re not sure yet. The Raptors won Game 1 of a best-of-three series with the Pickles. Game 2 is Wednesday night in Portland. Game 3, if necessary, is in Portland, too.
Should the Raptors win the series, though, they might have a home game in the divisional championship game. Depends on the outcome of the other series.
Time will tell.
While fans might not know about another home game yet, many Raptors fans are not done watching baseball. Monahan, the woman who only missed two games at The RORC this year? She and her family and friends said they were planning on going to Portland for Game 2 of the series. She predicted a Ridgefield victory.
Honestly, though, the Raptors have already won.
They won over the hearts of baseball fans in Southwest Washington. Cannot confirm that all 1,500 or fans stayed until the end on Tuesday, but most of them were still there.
The coaches, the players, they noticed.
“It’s crazy. I remember the first year of the Raptors and coming out and catching a few games,” McCarthy said. “I didn’t think it would turn into the whole community of Ridgefield, and really the whole 3-6-0 kind of rallying around this team.
“They truly did, and tonight shows you that much.”
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