Lefties celebration to see baseballs hit into Port Angeles Harbor

Matt Acker

Matt Acker

PORT ANGELES — Going yard will be going splash when the Port Angeles Lefties host a home run contest on the eve of the West Coast League All-Star Game this July.

Rather than hitting baseballs over an fence, league All-Stars will try to launch batting practice pitches from a raised platform at Hollywood Beach over a rope connected to anchors more than 300 feet offshore in Port Angeles Harbor.

The saltwater splashdown will be at 6:30 p.m. July 16, part of a two-day All-Star celebration in Port Angeles.

Lefties co-owner Matt Acker said he is looking for volunteers to help shag baseballs — yes, they do float — from the harbor.

“I’d like to have kayakers out there,” Acker told the Port Angeles Parks, Recreation and Beautification Commission on Thursday.

Acker said he envisioned a scene like McCovey Cove, where fans on kayaks swoop in to collect home run balls hit over the right field bleachers at the San Francisco Giants’ AT&T Park.

The home run contest will be the epicenter of a community celebration on the city waterfront July 16.

The Monday event will include live music at City Pier, food vendors, a beer and spirits garden, contests and games for kids.

The All-Star Game itself will be held at Civic Field, home of the Lefties, at 6:35 p.m. July 17.

“It’s a big deal to showcase the area, and we’re very excited about doing it,” said Acker, who fought with the team in Corvallis, Ore., to bring this year’s All-Star Game to Port Angeles.

The Port Angeles Lefties are a second-year member of the 13-year-old West Coast League, a wood bat summer circuit for promising collegiate players.

The league’s All-Star Game typically draws between 3,000 and 5,000 fans, about a third of whom come from other areas, Acker said.

“We know that we’re going to have a decent influx from Victoria,” Acker said.

“We think it’s going to be much larger than they’re anticipating because of the way we set things up. We will start in the afternoon (July 16). I want the community to come out and hit home runs into the water and see how it goes.”

The All-Star Game also attracts baseball scouts and representatives from front offices and ownership groups throughout Major League Baseball, Acker said.

“It’s a great chance for us to spotlight the community,” Acker told Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce members at a Wednesday luncheon.

“We do want local businesses to be part of the festivities for that day on the 16th.”

Acker said he is open to suggestions on how to best showcase the Port Angeles area. The home run contest was moved to Hollywood Beach to highlight the waterfront and downtown area, for example.

“I want to make sure that we have them see things that are important to us when they’re here,” Acker told the Parks, Recreation and Beautification Commission.

“So I’m really open to ideas from the community.”

The Port Angeles Lefties finished their inaugural season with a 19-34 record.

For Acker, a highlight of the season came when Seattle Mariners’ majority owner John Stanton flew to Port Angeles in a black jet and watched a Lefties game with his wife from behind home plate at Civic Field.

“This guy has access to every Major League Baseball park in the country, and he said: ‘That is the best backdrop in baseball,’” Acker said.

Port Angeles Parks and Recreation Director Corey Delikat said Stanton was highly complimentary of Civic Field, a city-owned facility that was recently upgraded.

“It went a long ways with field crew, too,” Delikat said.

The West Coast League has 11 teams from Washington, Oregon and British Columbia. There were 31 ex-WCL players on major league teams last year, league officials said.

Last October, the Lefties announced that Skagit Valley College Coach Darren Westergard had been hired to coach the Port Angeles team this summer.

“We’re excited about the season,” Acker said Thursday.

For information on the Port Angeles Lefties, click on www.leftiesbaseball.com.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at [email protected].

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