We have some changes in the summer-collegiate baseball world for 2016, as Gresham is in and Klamath Falls out of the West Coast League, and the Alaska Goldpanners are out of the Alaska Baseball League.
Gresham is a Portland suburb and the fourth-largest city in Oregon. The new West Coast League team will play out of Mt. Hood Community College’s Oslund Field. Jerry and Lisa Walker, who also own the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes (short season A; Northwest League) and the Klamath Falls Gems, are launching the Gresham team.
“Lisa and I join the entire WCL, City of Gresham, Mt. Hood Community College and area fans in celebrating this next chapter in community-based, family-friendly, championship-caliber baseball,” Jerry Walker said.
“We are proud to welcome the West Coast League to Gresham. This league will bring a fun and affordable family-friendly activity to our community and I am excited to see kids and families at the games cheering on Gresham’s team,” said Gresham Mayor Shane Bemis.
“Mt. Hood Community College is honored to be the host site for what should prove to be a wonderful addition to the Gresham community,” said Mt. Hood CC President Dr. Debra Derr.
“The West Coast League is very excited to be partnering with Gresham and Mt. Hood Community College,” said West Coast League President Dennis Koho. “Both represent high standards of growth and excellence as does the West Coast League. Every community in which we play gets their chance at winning a championship, and I am confident that the new Gresham club with bring a strong brand to town in 2016.”
The team’s nickname and mascot will be determined through a community-wide “name the team contest.” Fans can immediately begin submitting their entries by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The new Gresham team will replace the Klamath Falls Gems in the WCL’s 11-team 2016 schedule. The Klamath Falls Gems will continue play at historic Kiger Stadium, but not as a West Coast League team. Earlier this year the Medford Rogues announced a move from the West Coast League to the startup Great West League.
The new Gresham team also adds to the baseball diversity in the greater Portland area. The new Portland Pickles (summer collegiate; Great West League) will be playing out of a renovated Walker Stadium at Lents Park — an area once pitched for a new Portland Beavers ballpark — and the Hillsboro Hops (short season A; Northwest League) play out of suburban Portland.
In Fairbanks, the Alaska Goldpanners announced a departure from the Alaska Baseball League, leaving that venerable summer-collegiate circuit at five teams for 2016. The Goldpanners will play an independent schedule, with the focus on an invitation to the National Baseball Congress World Series in Wichita. The other teams in the circuit have decided to focus on league play and not worrying about the fundraising needed to send a team to Wichita.
Speaking of the Goldpanners: their home, Growden Memorial Park will see its capacity shrink by some 600 as the city votes to spend $80,000 to improve ballpark safety by tearing down unsafe bleachers and replacing others. Growden Memorial Park is best known as home of the Midnight Sun Baseball Game, the annual match played in the middle of the night at the time the sun never truly sets in Fairbanks. The ballpark’s capacity will shrink from 1,900 to 1,300, but temporary bleachers may be moved in for the Midnight Sun game.
The demolition will also remove box seats originally used in Sick’s Stadium, the old Seattle facility used for MiLB teams like the Seattle Rainiers and the one year of existence for the MLB Seattle Pilots. The seats were shipped to Fairbanks once the ballpark was torn down.