Like any sports team hoping to play this summer, the Ridgefield Raptors are caught between optimism and uncertainty.
There’s optimism because the West Coast League might have a deepest talent pool in its 15 year history. With no college baseball this spring, there is an abundance of players hungry for at-bats and innings.
But there remains the uncertainty of the coronavirus that has brought the world to a standstill. Will sports happen this summer in the Northwest? How many fans will be present if they do?
Nobody yet knows those answers.
It’s amid that uncertainty that Raptors general manager Gus Farah is building a roster for the collegiate wood bat team’s second season.
Yet Farah believes there are more important issues than simply getting back to playing baseball.
“First and foremost, it’s pretty hard to worry about our business without worrying about our community,” Farah said. “We can plan for a season, but we’re going to make sure we do everything we can to keep everyone safe and healthy.”
The West Coast League includes 12 teams across Oregon, Washington and British Columbia. Its season is scheduled to begin June 4 and last through mid August.
Farah said the league has contingency plans in case the season can’t start on time. More information will be announced after May 4, when Gov. Jay Inslee’s statewide shutdown order is set to expire.
Farah said fans will notice some changes if and when games happen at the Ridgefield Outdoor Recreation Complex.
He said there will be extra facilities for restrooms and hand washing. The team is looking at ways for fans to maintain social distancing while in the bleachers, on the outfield berms or in line for concessions.
Should games happen, there will be plenty of talent to watch. With no baseball this spring, Farah said collegiate coaches have been aggressively trying to find summer ball opportunities for their players.
That especially goes for pitchers, who have fresh arms entering the summer.
“You’re going to see some special kids who otherwise would have never come here this summer,” Farah said.
There are currently 16 players on the 2020 Raptors roster. Of those, 13 belong to NCAA Division I programs including Washington, Oregon State, California, Gonzaga and Boise State.
Two players with local ties are set to play in Ridgefield. Daniel Copeland, a Gonzaga sophomore from Skyview High, is back after missing last summer with an arm injury. Skyview senior pitcher Cooper Barnum is also on the roster.
Players and second-year coach Chris Cota have been coordinating workout plans so players arrive in shape.
After a socially distant spring, Farah is hoping summer brings a safe reunion between baseball and the Southwest Washington community.
“The initial mission of the team was to create a community gathering place for affordable family entertainment,” Farah said. “That’s what I’m really looking forward to. But we’re going to try and find that balance so everyone stays safe.”