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Medford takes initial steps toward WCL team

West Coast LeagueA summer-collegiate West Coast League team could set up shop in uncompleted Harry & David Field if Medford (Ore.) city officials agree to a lease.

Reps from the league, the potential ownership group (Consolidated Sports Holdings International, led by Gary Gelinas, an experienced minor-league-hockey operator) and the Medford Youth Baseball Society announced the plan yesterday. Harry & David Field was constructed after Miles Field, the former home to minor-league baseball in the city, was torn down, but it was never completed and has been used for youth baseball and another summer-collegiate team, the Southern Oregon RiverDawgs of the Far West League.

To get the process started, CSHI pledged $250,000 toward ballpark improvements, matching the amount the youth baseball society is attempting to raise toward the installation of additional seats and the replacement of temporary bleachers:

The seating plan involves carrying the same chair-back seating already on hand to the edges of the dugouts along the first base and third base lines. Chair-back seating will then be added to replace the temporary bleachers beyond that initial first five or so rows. A grassy berm will be placed beyond the bleachers on the first base side, while a public-viewing area or party deck will be built between the third base dugout and the current ramp that leads to the playing field.

The awarding of the franchise is conditional: the city and CSHI must agree to a lease, and the local fundraising must match the $250,000 already on the table.

The West Coast League has aggressively expanded in recent years, adding cities like Walla Walla and Victoria, B.C., to the mix. There’s been some speculation that the league could also be adding Yakima to the mix next season. We’re told Yakima is highly unlikely to enter the league in 2013, once the Yakima Bears (short season A; Northwest League) depart Yakima County Stadium for Hillsboro. (Let’s put it this way: Yakima is too large a market for affiliated ball to walk away from, and county commissioners opposing any renovations to the ballpark for the Bears may reconsider if it means landing another pro team.) With the Boise Hawks and one other team potentially seeking a new home, it’s most likely the Yakima ballpark will sit empty a summer as any changes in the Northwest League settle down, we’re told, but things could change if Yakima County Commissioners decide to pass completely on pro ball. More likely: the West Coast League expands southward to northern California’s Chico, where Nettleton Stadium sits empty during the summer after serving as an indy-ball home, or Redding.


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