PORT ANGELES — Port Angeles Lefties co-owner Matt Acker said Tuesday that the new West Coast League team will become a community event centered around much more than just baseball.
And as a community event, the games will draw big crowds and give area businesses plenty of advertising opportunities, Acker explained to business leaders at a meeting of the Port Angeles Business Association.
“It will be a place for businesses to promote and a place for us to promote business,” Acker said.
Business owners will be afforded the opportunity to market themselves at the games or participate in advertising giveaways, he said.
The collegiate wood bat team, playing against teams from Washington, British Columbia and Oregon, will begin its inaugural season at Civic Field in June.
It will feature top prospects from universities in the Pac-12, and other major college conferences on the west coast. While some players will be coming from junior college or small-college programs, other WCL players come from schools as big as USC, UCLA, Arizona State and Oregon State.
Many of these players are future stars who will be drafted by Major League Baseball teams, he explained. In 2016, 89 players in the league were drafted. He said the WCL is one of three collegiate wooden bat power leagues along with the Northwoods and Cape Cod leagues.
“These are kids who are two or three years away from seeing them on television,” he said. He mentioned the Baltimore Orioles’ Chris Davis, who went from playing in the WCL to hitting 53 home runs for the O’s within a few years.
Acker said that when he was looking into bringing a new team into the league, he went looking for a community that fit a number of criteria.
“I wanted to find a great market and this town popped out at me,” he said, calling Port Angeles the town he was looking for. That criteria included a good stadium, tourism, history, a blue-collar fan base and relative isolation from bigger cities and events. Also benefiting Port Angeles was its pleasant summer weather.
For Lefties baseball, Civic Field will include 102 cushioned seats, corporate boxes with couches and a party deck with beer and wine available. Most of all, the games will be community events that go beyond baseball. Acker expects people to come out for the games “because it’s an event, not just because they love baseball.”
Acker also told the group that these are genuinely elite players coming to Port Angeles getting a chance to play baseball with wooden bats in preparation for the minor leagues. “There won’t be a night that goes by where you won’t see 90 miles per hour,” he said, speaking to the pitching talent found in the WCL.
While the North Woods collegiate league is a hitters’ league, the WCL is more of a pitchers’ league, with hurlers routinely hitting 96-98 mph. Fans will be as close as 33 feet to that heat, compared to the seats 60 feet behind home plate at the Mariners’ Safeco Field.
In addition to talent, Acker said he will also be looking at bringing high-character players to Port Angeles. “We want to bring a certain kind of character representing us in the community,” he said. He is looking for hard-working kids busting their behinds to make it to the Major Leagues or a major collegiate program, not necessarily “silver spoon” prospects. “There’s some silver spoon universities that don’t fit in here,” he said.
And those players won’t be cloistered away from the community; in fact, they’ll be given their own bicycles and residents will likely see Lefties players riding around town.
Acker said people can expect a good time at the games this summer at Civic Field, both with the games and the promotions. “I want ideas that are outside the box,” he said.