Road trip: Raptors making friends, making memories

Ridgefield baseball club returns home this weekend after traveling to Canada and Oregon

The Ridgefield Raptors are back home tonight, winners of six of their past seven games and certified road warriors in the West Coast League.

The Ridgefield Raptors, shown here in the small dugout at the Portland Pickles facility earlier this week, are excited to be back home this weekend in their modern accommodations. The team played three games in Canada and three in Portland, going 5-1 on the road. Photo by Ken Gregg Photography, Raptors photographer
The Ridgefield Raptors, shown here in the small dugout at the Portland Pickles facility earlier this week, are excited to be back home this weekend in their modern accommodations. The team played three games in Canada and three in Portland, going 5-1 on the road. Photo by Ken Gregg Photography, Raptors photographer

The Raptors went on their first road trip in franchise history and got the longest trip out of the way first, traveling nearly 500 miles to Kelowna, British Columbia last weekend to register a three-game sweep.

Up until a couple weeks ago, many of these players from colleges across the country had never met each other, never played together. Now they are killing time together on the bus for 10 hours there or 40 minutes here.

After the all-night bus ride back to Clark County Sunday into Monday morning, the Raptors took a day off and then commuted to “Vancouver’s suburb” to the south for a three-game series with the Portland Pickles, taking two of three.

While talent and performance win games on the field, it is time together off the field that makes a team.

The Raptors played a night game last Thursday at home and played the next night in Kelowna.

“That bus ride was long, but it was a lot of fun,” said Joey Martin, who plays for Kansas State. “Kelowna is a little different. There wasn’t much around. We all had a good time hanging out in the mall. Hanging out, having a good time. That’s all we could do.”

Well that and play some quality baseball.

“As soon as we got there, it was straight to the field and play,” said Jonny Weaver of Grand Canyon University. “That isn’t a bad thing.”

It might have taken a few minutes to get the muscles going, though.

“Definitely had to do a longer stretch than usual,” Weaver said.

Carter Benbrook, who just graduated from high school and will play at UC Santa Barbara, said it was the longest bus ride in his career. His high school team went from the Sacramento area to Fresno, but that was nothing compared to the Raptors going to Canada.

And in travel ball, or club ball, a player usually goes to a tournament with his parents.

“It’s a lot better than having your parents come,” Benbrook said. “A lot better with no parents.”


Ridgefield Raptors (6-3)

Next series: Home vs. Port Angeles Lefties (5-4), a three-game series starting Fri., June 14.
First pitch is 6:35 p.m. Friday and Saturday, with a 3:05 p.m. first pitch Sunday on Father’s Day.

Promotions: The first 600 fans at Saturday’s game will receive a Ridgefield Raptors sack pack, courtesy of Adidas. … On Sundays, children 10 and under are free with a paid adult, courtesy of Kiddie Academy of Vancouver.

Who’s hot: Michael Hicks was 7 for his last 10 in the final two games in Portland. He hit two home runs and drove in four runs Thursday. Jack Bauer is hitting .394 through the first nine games of the season. On the mound, Joey Martin got the win Wednesday, going five innings without an earned run. Michael Spellacy went five innings Tuesday to get the win.


He did not elaborate.

“It was fun,” manager Chris Cota said. “The long bus ride got them to be a little closer. Just being in the hotel for the first time was good for the guys. We enjoyed it.”

The trip was long, but it was also fast, if that is possible.

Arrive in town. Get to the park. Play. Hotel. The mall crawl. Play. Hotel. Get the bags ready for departure. Play. Then get back on the bus.

“Wasn’t a lot of time to explore the area,” Cota said.

“We tried to play some games, watch movies, and get some sleep,” Weaver said of the trips.

“Good bonding experience. It was awesome. You definitely got to know a lot of the guys.”

Not every guy made the trip. Oh Canada, meant oh, we need a passport.

“A couple guys couldn’t make it because they didn’t have passports,” Martin said. “I had to get my passport expedited. I had to get mine special ordered. I never had a passport before.”

He said it was easier getting into Canada than it was to cross the border back into America.

The Ridgefield Outdoor Recreation Complex will welcome home the Raptors this weekend after their first road trip of the season. Ridgefield takes on Port Angeles at 6:35 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and then 3:05 p.m. on Father’s Day. Photo by Mike Schultz
The Ridgefield Outdoor Recreation Complex will welcome home the Raptors this weekend after their first road trip of the season. Ridgefield takes on Port Angeles at 6:35 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and then 3:05 p.m. on Father’s Day. Photo by Mike Schultz

Eventually, the Raptors made it back to Clark County. The team left Kelowna around 9:45 p.m. Sunday, and Benbrook arrived at his host home in Vancouver at 8 a.m. Monday.

“We definitely had some good conversations throughout the two trips,” he said of his new teammates.

Going to Portland was a bit more manageable. Some players took the charter bus. Others made it to the stadium on their own.

While the Raptors have only been to three other stadiums — they played an exhibition in Longview prior to the season opener — being on the road definitely makes them appreciate Ridgefield even more.

They are going to enjoy this weekend’s series against the Port Angeles Lefties.

“We love our home fans. They are treating us nice in Ridgefield,” Martin said. “Great park. Great fans. We’re definitely getting spoiled.”

In Portland, the stadium for the Pickles is fine for the fans, but the dugouts are small. The Raptors are looking forward to being back at the Ridgefield Outdoor Recreation Complex.

“The facilities don’t even compare, with how new it is and how professionally it was made,” Benbrook said. “It was built properly to accommodate a big college team.”

Still, road trips are part of the deal, too. The longest one this season is out of the way now. The Raptors will return to Canada for the Victoria series in July, but short compared to Kelowna.

“I’m excited for more road trips,” Benbrook said.

Plus, winning makes the miles a lot easier to handle.

The Raptors are now 5-1 on the road this season.

Still, they are happy to be home.

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About The Author

Paul Valencia joins ClarkCountyToday.com after more than two decades of newspaper experience. He became the face of high school sports coverage in Clark County during his 17 years at The Columbian. Before moving to Vancouver, Paul worked at Oregon daily newspapers in Pendleton, Roseburg, and Salem. A graduate of David Douglas High School in Portland, Paul enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving three years as a soldier/journalist. He and his wife Jenny recently celebrated their 20th anniversary. They have a son who has a passion for karate and Minecraft. Paul’s hobbies include: Watching the Raiders play football, reading about the Raiders playing football, and waiting to watch and read about the Raiders playing football.

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