PORT ANGELES — Envision baseball on the lush Civic Field diamond on a clear summer evening with a beverage in hand. A sweatshirt has been brought along to help manage the westerly chill that’s certain to be had once the sun dips behind the grandstand and Mount Angeles fades from view.
The ability to cheer and jeer and socialize with friends and family while being served up plenty of America’s Pastime — all of this is why the Port Angeles Lefties have joined the 11 other West Coast League baseball teams to launch the #StayHome4Baseball campaign, encouraging fans to stay home and flatten the coronavirus curve.
The #StayHome4Baseball campaign challenges not only fans, but also baseball teams everywhere, at all levels, to help limit and ultimately stop the spread of COVID-19.
“It’s not often that a baseball league can make a measurable difference during a national crisis, but this is one of those times,” WCL Commissioner Rob Neyer said.
“All our teams are busy preparing for the season. “But at the same time we’re thinking about our fans. We want them to stay safe, be healthy and join us at the ballpark this summer. But that’s probably not going to happen unless we flatten the curve. Soon. And all the doctors and epidemiologists tell us the same thing: Stay home now. So we’re asking our fans to stay home now, and later we’ll play as much baseball as we can play.”
Lefties owner Matt Acker was glad to join the social media campaign in these troubling times both as a small-business owner and community supporter.
“It’s a big deal in having consistency in getting that stay home message out,” Acker said. “We are looking forward to a summer season, but we have to make the right decisions now so it’s something we may be able to do.
“We’ve seen Major League Baseball pushed back and the cancellation of the college baseball season, so that’s guiding our moves. We have some time on our side, but not that much and we have to make some smart decisions now.”
Acker said the league would only start up for the summer on receiving clearance from public health officials.
“If or when we play, it will be with the utmost concern for the safety of our fans, citizens and ball players,” Acker said.
Acker said he is in a different position economically from some other West Coast League owners.
“I’m not in the same situation as the rest of these teams,” Acker said. “This is my livelihood, and I’m getting killed. Some of the other guys own other ventures, and baseball is more of a fun hobby. They care about their communities and are passionate about the game, of course, but it’s not as dear for them.
“This is a difficult situation for me, but I want to play in the summer, and we just have to figure out how. Staying at home could get us there.”
Acker understands that fan and business support is vital for the Lefties to keep playing ball.
“My No. 1 priority right now is helping this community,” Acker said. “We are so tied to the community through the health of our sports teams. That sense of community pride and support. That we are all on the same team.
“When this started happening, my first reaction was, and I explained to my boys, that I have to go help other businesses. There is nothing for me to do with baseball right now until there is health in other businesses in our area.”
Acker has joined Choose Clallam First, a social media campaign working to provide information and resources for Clallam County businesses and encouraging area citizens to shop locally.
“I was calling the [Clallam] EDC for resources to help businesses, and they asked me to help with the campaign,” Acker said.
“It’s a resource for businesses. We can provide federal and state info, small business loan information and be a resource for the average citizen. When we get to the recovery part, the campaign will shift more into promotion of business, how they’ve changed and when they are up and running.”
Acker said he’s appreciating the ability to spend more time with his family.
“I do appreciate the time with my family,” Acker said. “And working with the businesses and people in a different capacity than I have before. Those connections are special to me.
“I’m an optimist, and I like to see people overcome failure. With baseball, you get to see it happen so often.”
And Acker pointed to how other communities have responded to cataclysmic events.
“In previous disasters, a sports team has served as a rallying point for the community. The Yankees after 9/11 or the New Orleans Saints after [Hurricane Katrina]. I hope we can be part of that.”
Sports reporter Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-406-0674 or [email protected] dailynews.com.