Port Angeles Lefties fans watch a game at Civic Field from the comfort of couches lined up behind the backstop Friday. (Paul Gottlieb/Peninsula Daily News)

Lefties will be back next year, co-owner says

PORT ANGELES — Lefties co-owner Matt Acker said Tuesday that his West Coast League collegiate-level baseball team will return next year for its second season and promised a big announcement for Aug. 5.

He also told the two dozen Port Angeles Business Association breakfast meeting participants that Civic Field attendance is averaging more than 1,200 a game, which places the first-year team right in the middle of 11 league squads in attendance rankings.

That includes gate receipts and season ticket holders, of which there are 450.

The Lefties, although 20-27 overall before Tuesday’s game, also still have a chance for postseason play, he said.

But that depends, Acker said in a later interview, in large part on how they fare in a three-game home series against the Wenatchee Applesox that began Tuesday night.

At the outset of the 25-minute presentation at Joshua’s Restaurant and Lounge, the Lacey resident, who is moving to Port Angeles by the beginning of the school year, addressed a question he said people never stop asking:

Will he bring the Lefties back to Port Angeles in 2018?

“Absolutely, there’s no question we will be back next year,” he said.

Backing that assertion in a later interview, the Lefties’ 80 percent majority owner said his Mack Athletics Inc. will begin negotiating next year for an extension of a three-year partnership agreement with city officials for the continued use of city-owned Civic Field beyond 2019.

“Port Angeles is my territory, and I’m not moving from town to town,” he said. “That’s a lot of work to do that.”

In the interview, he also said the special event planned for 2018 that he will announce Aug. 5 will include a concert at Civic Field.

“It will bring a big spotlight onto the local community,” Acker predicted.

The Lefties’ regular season ends Aug. 5 at home against the Victoria Harbourcats.

Acker also said he hopes to address, with city officials, his “big concern” with hillsides on Civic Field that pose a danger to foot traffic, especially one near Second Street.

“That hillside is still a huge concern of mine,” he said.

“I see kids running down it all the time.”

In offering his view of how the 2017 season has fared as it draws to a close, Acker said he miscalculated the difficulty his players would have in living in Sequim while commuting to Port Angeles for games, so many have moved to Port Angeles.

With more season ticket holders than Port Angeles, Sequim has its Lefties fans but a paucity of restaurants open at night — a problem for hungry baseball players who finish their games well past dark.

The players have held baseball camps for area youths at Civic Field on Mondays and Tuesdays in July, Acker said.

He said he’s hoping attendance hits a 1,500 average before the season’s end at 3,400-seat Civic Field.

“It’s more than possible for us,” he said.

He noted he will have to rely on customer metrics present on no other West Coast League team’s fan base save the Lefties.

The team is cheered on for home games by not one, not two, but three waves of fans.

The first arrives an hour before the game, waiting for the gates to open.

“They eat, they usually buy a beer but not usually multiple beers,” Acker said. “If it gets cold, they go home.”

The second group arrives in the third or fourth inning.

“They already ate, or they eat very little,” Acker said. “They usually drink multiple beers.”

The third wave arrives around the sixth or seventh inning to see how close the game is.

“If we are within three [runs] or up by three, they are like, ‘Uh, good game, let’s go,’ ” Acker said. “They buy as many beers as they can.

“It’s a huge spike, a huge spike.

“We have found out that people come until the eighth inning, so we have had to really change what we are doing.”

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].

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