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The Ridgefield Raptors reflect the area’s growing maturity, presence

Commentary: Micah Rice

By Micah Rice, Columbian Sports Editor
Published: June 2, 2019, 6:37pm

When the Ridgefield Raptors open their inaugural season on Tuesday, it will feel like a coming-of-age party.

In one of the nicest ballparks in the Portland metro area, Clark County sports fans will have a team to call their own.

And yes, it’s about time.

Our proximity to Portland, with all its entertainment options, is nice. But this is ours.

For the summer, Raptors players will live among us. Though they come from across the U.S., for three months they’ll represent us.

And it’s fitting they will play in a setting that perfectly captures the natural beauty and dynamic growth that are hallmarks of Clark County.

In this special section, we’ll take you back through all the major developments in the formation of the franchise — from the team’s founding to its final tune-ups — as reported in The Columbian. We’ll introduce you to the players and coaches. We also publish this summer’s schedule of games and special events so you can plan your perfect evening at the ballpark

Semi-pro basketball, football and soccer teams have tried, and largely failed, to draw a fanbase in Clark County. But the buzz around the Ridgefield Raptors feels different.

Just ask Brody Barnum, a Washington State University sophomore whose parents live 10 minutes from Ridgefield Outdoor Recreation Complex. The former Skyview High star will play outfield for the Raptors this season.

Barnum said he has heard from several friends who are excited to check out the newest addition to the Southwest Washington sports scene.

“I can’t wait,” he said. “It’s going to be one of the coolest things I’ve ever done.”

Ridgefield will play in the West Coast League. The 12-team league allows college baseball players to spend their summers in a setting that mirrors professional minor league baseball, including the use of wood bats.

“It allows them to understand how playing the game beyond college is,” Raptors coach Chris Cota said.

Barnum played last summer with the West Coast League’s Portland Pickles. He played in 46 games from June through August, hitting .245 with seven home runs and 30 RBI. He also pitched in six games.

“I loved the everyday grind,” Barnum said. “There’s always something to look forward to. You can’t dwell on what happened the day before.”

Rosters for West Coast League teams are known to fluctuate, as many players have other summer commitments. Coaches also feel an obligation to get players a certain number of innings or at bats.

But the competitive nature of the game remains.

“It’s going to be about getting kids playing time,” Cota said. “But at the same time, we also want to win for the ownership, the team and the community.”

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With a population of roughly 500,000, Clark County represents one fifth of the 2.4 million people in the Portland metro area.

It’s a county that is growing not just in population, but sophistication. From the new Vancouver waterfront to downtown Washougal, you no longer need to trek across the Columbia River for a night on the town.

Now, that’s also true if you want to spend a summer evening at the ballpark.

For Clark County, and the Ridgefield Raptors, the time has come.

Micah Rice is Sports Editor at The Columbian. Reach him at 360-735-4548, micah.rice@columbian.com or via Twitter @col_mrice.