PORT ANGELES — Civic Field and the Port Angeles Lefties will serve as hosts of the 2018 West Coast League All-Star Game, co-owner Matt Acker announced Saturday night at the Lefties-Vancouver HarbourCats contest.
The All-Star Game celebration will be held Monday and Tuesday, July 16-17, 2018, and will include a home-run derby contest and a concert on the Monday and the All-Star game itself on Tuesday.
“This is a significant event because it draws a spotlight to that area for baseball fans, scouts and West Coast League teams and players,” Acker said.
“Our games don’t get heavily scouted because our players are college-level and have been pre-identified for the most part. But the WCL All-Star Game is different. Every Major League Baseball team sends a scouting representative, they send their crosscheckers, because they recognize this is the largest collection of talent in one place on the West Coast.”
This year the West Coast League moved to a two-day All-Star celebration, splitting off the home-run derby and concert from the game itself when the Yakima Valley Pippins played host last month.
“The first day we will have the home-run derby contest and the concert,” Acker said. “Some of the teams have been extremely successful with the concerts and some have not. But we feel that our connections with Next Door GastroPub [Gastropub owner Jacob Oppelt owns a stake in the Lefties] bringing in great music acts all the time, so I think we can put on a top-notch concert.”
And the home-run derby will likely have an early-evening start, Acker said. He mentioned batted balls carry better out of Civic Field, particularly over the short porch in left field, before dark when winds can play havoc with ball flight and the marine air becomes dense and heavy, limiting home run potential.
But Acker and the Lefties may have some surprises in store next July.
Fans shouldn’t count out a home-run derby splashdown in the waters off City Pier. The Northwoods League, a collegiate wood-bat league in Michigan, pulled off a home run derby using a float on Lake Michigan earlier this summer.
“Don’t think we haven’t talked about having a home run derby into the water,” he said.
And a Civic Field concert should have great audio quality next July.
Crews will begin installing a new sound system at Civic on Monday, Aug. 14 and work should be completed in time for Port Angeles High School sports this fall.
Acker said the decision to grant Port Angeles the game was voted on by West Coast League teams last offseason before the Lefties had ever thrown a pitch.
Hosting duties typically rotate between the West Coast League teams in a prearranged order. The franchise next in line to host in 2018 passed for organizational reasons and the next team on the list will be celebrating a significant milestone in 2019 and would rather host the game at that time.
In that situation, Acker said teams can volunteer to host the game and the Lefties and Corvallis Knights both stepped up.
“I had a huge fight with Corvallis,” Acker said. “They wanted it bad, but we won it when they took the vote.
“It was before the season, but we had our ducks in a row and they [other teams] believed in us and what we were planning on achieving.”
Acker said he had support from many fellow franchise owners and team operators, all of whom have hosted previous All-Star celebrations.
“I have some great friends in Zachary Fraser [President and COO of] Walla Walla and Yakima, Tony Bonnacci [owner of the] Cowlitz Black Bears and Jim Swanson [co-owner/general manager] in Victoria.
“I was able to ask them a lot of questions about things that need to happen when you host the game, things that you want to happen and things that you wish you had pulled off. Now, we are looking at what the community will like to see happen.”
Acker also said the move to host the game was not a decision taken lightly, especially considering the effort involved in getting the franchise off the ground in Port Angeles this year.
“I talked to [Lefties General Manager] Ryan [Hickey] about if we wanted to wait a few years because of the work it takes to host, but Ryan was on board and Jake [Oppelt] said, ‘Heck yes,’ when we called to ask what he thought. So we are all on the same page.”
Now Acker is looking for area sponsors to help host some side events and potentially help with the cost of hosting the game, a price he estimated at running between $30-and-$50K.
And he’s also seeking a larger presenting sponsor for the event. Recent All-Star Game sponsors have included Big League Chew bubble gum and Target Zero, the Washington State Patrol’s highway safety project, for the game earlier this year in Yakima.